Enhancing laboratory capacity during ebola virus disease (EVD) heightened surveillance in liberia: Lessons learned and recommendations

Victoria Katawera, Henry Kohar, Nuha Mahmoud, Philomena Raftery, Christine Wasunna, Ben Humrighouse, Patrick Hardy, John Saindon, Randal Schoepp, Monear Makvandi, Lisa Hensley, Orla Condell, Kara Durski, Shalini Singaravelu, Laetitia Gahimbare, Gene Olinger, Francis Kateh, Dhamari Naidoo, Peter Nsubuga, Pierre FormentyTolbert Nyenswah, Sheick Oumar Coulibaly, Joseph Chukwudi Okeibunor, Ambrose Talisuna, Ali Ahmed Yahaya, Soatiana Rajatonirina, Desmond Williams, Bernice Dahn, Alex Gasasira, Ibrahima Socé Fall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: following a declaration by the World Health Organization that Liberia had successfully interrupted Ebola virus transmission on May 9th, 2015; the country entered a period of enhanced surveillance. The number of cases had significantly reduced prior to the declaration, leading to closure of eight out of eleven Ebola testing laboratories. Enhanced surveillance led to an abrupt increase in demand for laboratory services. We report interventions, achievements, lessons learned and recommendations drawn from enhancing laboratory capacity. Methods: using archived data, we reported before and after interventions that aimed at increasing laboratory capacity. Laboratory capacity was defined by number of laboratories with Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) testing capacity, number of competent staff, number of specimens tested, specimen backlog, daily and surge testing capacity, and turnaround time. Using Stata 14 (Stata Corporation, College Station, TX, USA), medians and trends were reported for all continuous variables. Results: between May and December 2015, interventions including recruitment and training of eight staff, establishment of one EVD laboratory facility, implementation of ten Ebola GeneXpert diagnostic platforms, and establishment of working shifts yielded an 8-fold increase in number of specimens tested, a reduction in specimens backlog to zero, and restoration of turn-around time to 24 hours. This enabled a more efficient surveillance system that facilitated timely detection and containment of two EVD clusters observed thereafter. Conclusion: effective enhancement of laboratory services during high demand periods requires a combination of context-specific interventions. Building and ensuring sustainability of local capacity is an integral part of effective surveillance and disease outbreak response efforts. The preparation of this work was supported by World Health Organization, Liberia Country Office. Technical support was provided by; George Acire and Wondimu Ayele of WHO, Liberia Country Office, who developed the Geographical Information System maps (Figure 1). We are grateful to the laboratory personnel and supporting partners whose diligence and dedication to work contributed to the achievements of the laboratory surveillance, and the Ministry of Health, Liberia for the collaboration and coordination of the EVD response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalPan African Medical Journal
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Ebola Virus Disease
  • Enhanced surveillance
  • Laboratory capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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