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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Suitcase School

Published December 5, 2012 1:00 PM by Michael Jones

Every day, laboratory technology is getting faster and more precise, but what about smaller? According to a recent Dark Daily news briefing, Australian pathologist, Dr. Tim Inglis, researched mosquito-borne illnesses on the move with a molecular pathology lab that could fit in a suitcase. Ignoring for a second the cartoony image of Wile E. Coyote pulling a genetic sequencer out of a shaving kit, the implications of research on-the go and, perhaps more notably, results on-the-go open doors to immediate, precise and effective treatment given on site in direct response to a situation. 

"Working with the most up-to-date molecular methods, we analyzed newly trapped mosquitos to show how Ross River Virus and Murray Valley Encephalitis can be detected on site, within 24 hours," said Inglis in a story on

A Clinical Microbiology Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia and pathologist at PathWest/The University of Western Australia, Inglis demonstrated the effect a fully operational mobile laboratory can have in the early discovery of the causes of disease and infection in the field. The expedition exhibited PCR technology that could deliver diagnostic testing to meet clinical accuracy and reliability standards without being restricted to a clinical laboratory setting. The team, which included fellow PathWest scientist Adam Merrit, was launched as part of "Lab Without Walls," a not-for-profit setup by Inglis with the goal of bringing new pathology methods to remote locations lacking in the technology provided by a traditional medical laboratory. 

"Our ‘Lab Without Walls' showcases how field-led pathology can contribute to regional health service development.  Without the use of mobile equipment, mosquitos are sent back to Perth for testing. The definitive results can take weeks. By running advanced analytical methods in remote places, Lab Without Walls can demonstrate the potential for enhanced health support in one of our most rapidly growing regions," stated Inglis in the Virtual article. 

Although the concept of portable laboratory technology has been used before in other parts of the world, the expedition marks a notable development in Australia. Rather than sending out for results, which takes time that professionals do not necessarily have in the field, Inglis, Merrit and their team show us that existing technology can support on-the-go research and diagnostic testing. 

"This is not something we will do all the time, and the findings still have to be authenticated at the main laboratory. However taking molecular bodies into the field is a big step forward from techniques we have used in the past," said Inglis in the Virtual article. 

Advances in mobile laboratory technology raise questions about the direction of future research. The Dark Daily news briefing cited the expedition in Australia as "an example of why pathologists and clinical laboratory managers can expect to see molecular testing moving ever nearer to the patient," which holds great weight both for humanitarian causes as well as for domestic use -- especially in areas like POCT, which is already making strides. Just as researchers have headed to places like Africa and Australia, will testing one day become an in-home procedure for certain patients rather than in-house?


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February 5, 2014 4:42 PM

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