Abu Dhabi launches first mobile infectious diseases lab i-1672567239579
BSL-3 labs are deployed to safely study disease agents or toxins which may be carried through the air and lead to potentially deadly infection through inhalation Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) has introduced the UAE’s first mobile BSL-3 (Biosafety Level 3) laboratory.

Equipped to handle highly infectious disease agents, including Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and yellow fever, the BSL-3 mobile laboratory will enhance the emirate’s infectious disease preparedness through swift, safe and accurate testing of communicable diseases.

Matar Saeed Al Nuaimi, ADPHC’s director-general, said: “The launch of the mobile BSL-3 laboratory in the emirate will support us in enhancing the preparations of the capital to respond to, control and investigate infectious diseases, and achieve the vision of ADPHC towards enhancing a healthy and safe community. Since the establishment of ADPHC in 2019, under the guidance of our wise leadership, ADPHC has created a positive impact on the standards of public health in Abu Dhabi and established strategic partnerships to maintain health and safety in society.”

Dr Farida Al Hosani, executive director of infectious diseases and official spokesperson for the UAE health sector, said: “This newly launched state-of-the-art mobile laboratory will offer swift and free testing to identify those exposed to viral infections and pathogens. Abu Dhabi is well-equipped and prepared to adequately manage any public health threat that faces the community.”

Secure containment

Biosafety levels (BSL) are used to identify the protective measures needed in a laboratory setting to protect workers, the environment, and the public. BSL-3 laboratories have a high level of containment that is second only to BSL-4 labs, which have the greatest containment levels.

BSL-3 labs are used to study infectious agents or toxins that may be transmitted through the air and cause potentially lethal infection through inhalation exposure. Researchers perform all experiments in biosafety cabinets that use carefully controlled air flow or sealed enclosures to prevent infection.

BSL-3 laboratories are also designed to be easily decontaminated. These laboratories must use controlled and have directional air flow.

Other engineered safety features include the use of two self-closing, or interlocked, doors, sealed windows and wall surfaces, and filtered ventilation systems. BSL-3 labs must also have access to equipment that can decontaminate laboratory waste, including an incinerator, an autoclave, or another method depending on the biological risk assessment.

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Four locations

According to the ADPHC, its mobile laboratory will be accessible across four sites in Abu Dhabi, including Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), Al Rahba Hospital, Tawam Hospital, and Madinat Zayed Hospital. All laboratory technicians who will be working inside the lab and handling high-threat level pathogens have undergone intense training by the manufacturer, and on-site safety training to safely operate within the laboratory.

In addition, SKMC Biosafety and Quality team will be overseeing the biosafety and quality aspects.

“As healthcare leaders, the responsibility of ensuring public safety in the event of infectious disease outbreak falls on our shoulders. The mobile BSL-3 lab launched by ADPHC is a monumental step towards further fortifying UAE’s infectious diseases preparedness. We are extremely honoured to house the mobile BSL-3 lab at SKMC, Tawam, and Al Rahba Hospital. We remain committed alongside the government and ADPHC in protecting the community against infectious diseases,” said Saeed Jaber Al Kuwaiti, group CEO of Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA).

The mobile laboratory will be mobilised by the Reference Laboratory for Infectious Diseases, Abu Dhabi (RLID-AD) (surveillance laboratory) in times of outbreaks to augment the screening and diagnostic capacities of communicable diseases in the emirate.