The Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, part of the Texas A&M University System, recently established a mobile diagnostic laboratory to expand its capability in responding to animal disease outbreaks. The 300-square-foot, mobile laboratory—pulled by a pickup truck—can process blood and tissue samples. The samples are then sent to the permanent diagnostic laboratory in College Station, Texas, for testing for animal diseases.
"Speed is critical in these high-consequence disease outbreaks," said Dr. Lelve Gayle, TVMDL executive director. "Every day you're delaying, the disease may be spreading to other premises."
The mobile laboratory operates at a biosafety level 3 rating, which means it had to pass stringent standards to keep disease organisms from escaping into the environment. The mobile laboratory has showers for the technicians, a centrifuge, ventilation hood, computers, and telephones. It is also equipped to send data electronically.
It is the only known mobile laboratory of its kind, Dr. Gayle said. Several other veterinary diagnostic laboratories operate modular, trailer-type BSL-3 facilities, but they're generally not as mobile as the TVMDL unit, Dr. Gayle said. He said a BSL-3 trailer might be stationed at a permanent laboratory that doesn't have a BSL-3 rating.
The addition of the mobile laboratory has increased the testing area at the TVMDL. In a highly infectious disease outbreak, Dr. Gayle said, the TVMDL might have had to use one of the two BSL-3 testing laboratories at College Station as a sample-processing laboratory.
Another benefit, he added, was that the mobile laboratory ensures proper processing of samples from quarantine zones. "We needed an area that we could process these samples in to ... make sure they're safe to be transported from remote locations to the testing laboratory," Dr. Gayle said. "The mobile unit ... provides us with that flexibility."
Along with the College Station laboratory, the TVMDL operates a laboratory in Amarillo and two poultry laboratories in Center and Gonzales.