Bacchus P, Nissen K, Berg J, Bråve A, Gyll J, Larsson C, Muradrasoli S, Tellström A, Salaneck E
Health Secur 19 (5) 488-497 [2021-09-20; online 2021-09-20]
Rapid and adaptable diagnostic capabilities are of great importance in the face of emerging infectious diseases. In an outbreak, timely establishment of diagnostic routines is crucial to identifying cases and preventing the spread of the disease, especially when faced with high-consequence pathogens. In this article, we describe a multiagency exercise including the rapid deployment and diagnostic adaptation of the Swedish Armed Forces mobile laboratory (biological field analysis laboratory) in the context of COVID-19. This deployment was initiated as a high-readiness exercise at the end of January 2020, when the global development of the outbreak was still uncertain. Through collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Sweden and a civilian hospital, a real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction method specific to SARS-CoV-2 was made available and adapted to the mobile laboratory, and the team established and evaluated a functional and efficient diagnostic asset along with a logistical support chain. We also organized and evaluated mobile testing teams, and the method was later used in large-scale, national, cross-sectional COVID-19 surveys in several regions of Sweden. In this article, we focus on the challenges of overbridging the civil-military interface in this context and identifying lessons learned and added values to the response during the early pandemic. We propose that the experiences from this exercise and governmental agency collaboration are valuable in preparation for future outbreaks.