PREDICT Success: Laos Gains Lab Capacity to Respond to Deadly Outbreaks

Laos

Staff at the National Animal Health Laboratory receive training from a UC Davis laboratory technician on use of synthetic DNA plasmids and broadly reactive consensus PCR assays for viral diagnostics.

Through the PREDICT project, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has developed in-country capacity to help prevent and respond to potentially deadly disease outbreaks in ways they never could have before. To develop these capabilities, a gradual and sustained capacity building program has been undertaken with staff from the government animal laboratory and the National Animal Health Laboratory (NAHL).

In 20 countries around the world, PREDICT has developed innovative techniques for rapid detection and diagnosis of high-risk viral families through the use of synthetic DNA plasmids and broadly reactive consensus PCR. These techniques are powerful tools in the event of a disease outbreak. They allow for rapid, broad screening to help rule in or out the involvement of viral pathogens in the outbreak.

In November 2011, three NAHL staff members attended a month-long training at the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia. At this training, NAHL staff received training on personal protective equipment use, laboratory biosafety, and protocols to extract DNA and RNA from samples. This was followed by a second month of training at the Pasteur Institute in June 2012, after which NAHL staff were capable of performing DNA extraction of PREDICT samples.

In October 2012, a UC Davis laboratory expert conducted a one-month training session at NAHL on family level viral PCR for coronaviruses and rhabdoviruses, quality control, and cDNA production to allow shipping of stable PCR products. Following this training, NAHL staff performed these protocols with limited ongoing assistance through weekly calls with UC Davis laboratory technical staff.

In-country PREDICT staff provided ongoing training and assistance with database and sample management. The collaboration between NAHL and the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia during the project has allowed continued quality assessment of the PREDICT laboratory work at NAHL, with positive PCR samples sent to the Pasteur Institute for confirmatory testing.

To date, NAHL has performed DNA extractions and produced cDNA on more than 2,500 PREDICT wildlife samples and conducted PCR on more than 700 samples. The provision of recurrent high quality training and application of techniques with consistent feedback to laboratory personnel has led to sustainable capacity for viral screening at the national animal laboratory, which is now prepared to assist in the event of a disease outbreak.