Africa Suitcaselab is a project funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) and an African-European partnership for development and deployment of rapid SARS-CoV-2 RNA and antigen detection assays by the Botnar Research Centre for Child Health (BRCCH). Both contain a multi-country blinded phase 2 study to evaluate rapid detection systems of SARS-COV-2.

Left: suitcase lab, for mastermix preparation and assay performance; right: secure glove box for safe sample inactivation and handling
Suitcase lab presented to the president of Ghana

The Project

Our main aim is to evaluate 3 different point of need systems (isothermal amplification, peakPCR and rapid antigen test) for SARS-COV-2 through a multi-country blinded study and its implementation in low resource settings. Learn more about our projects.

The consortium consists of 3 European Partners (coordination and assay development) as well as 7 North and Sub-Saharan partners (diagnostic evaluation). Learn more about who we are.

  1. Diagnostic accuracy determination of point of need assays 
    Determining the diagnostic accuracy of point of need assays (isothermal amplification, peakPCR and rapid antigen test).
  2. International collaboration
    Building cross border collaboration involving 9 countries from Europe, North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

  3. Capacity building 
    Building capacity for safe handling of BSL-3 pathogens using the glove box.

  4. Suitcase lab implementation
    Implementation of the suitcase lab for rapid detection of SARS-COV-2.

Expected impact
Once validated, the suitcase lab can be deployed at point of entry, walk-through test centers as well as remote areas for outbreak investigations. The suitcase lab will pave the way for rapid identification of infected cases and enhance prompt management as well as immediate implementation of control measures against the spread of SARS-COV-2.

COVID-19 has emerged as a new viral disease in late 2019 and has rapidly spread and developed into a global pandemic with severe health and economic impact. Although real-time RT-PCR is currently used as the standard method for SARS-COV-2 molecular diagnosis, it requires a well-established laboratory, specifically trained personnel, is time-consuming (2-5 hours) and thus involves high costs altogether. Therefore, the need of other rapid and simple diagnostic approaches maintaining the high performance of RT-PCR is of utmost urgency.

peakPCR

In the past 3 years, Prof. Stark´s at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland (ETH) working group has designed and constructed a completely new PCR instrument (called “peakPCR”) with a proprietary metallic sample holder, built with inexpensive and easily available components and therefore at an extremely competitive price (Figure 1). Thanks to the low reaction volume required by the sample holder, the PCR amplification can be performed faster and generate significant reagents savings.

peakPCR desktop device, a smaller, faster and simpler PCR
Figure 1: peakPCR desktop. (Image credit: Michele Gregorini)

Antigen Test

Dr. Vörös group at ETH is developing an electrochemically enhanced rapid antigen test for COVID-19 (RDT) at a roughly two orders of magnitude improved limit of detection compared to state of the art COVID-19 rapid tests, while retaining all the advantages of a rapid test: Speed, mobility and price efficiency (Figure 2).

Rapid Antigen test with an electrochemical readout device from Hemetron
Figure 2: COVID-19 nucleocapsid protein lateral flow assay with the electrochemical readout device. (Image Credit: Alexander Tanno)

Isothermal amplification assay

The group from Germany, France, and seven African countries are working in the last five years on development and implementation of mobile suitcase lab (figure 3) operating an isothermal amplification assay, termed as recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) assay and recombinase aided amplification (RAA) assay. It is widely regarded as a promising alternative technology to real-time PCR for field use as it provides results faster, amplifies nucleic acid at a constant lower temperature, and is accomplished with less expensive as well as simpler equipment.

Suitcase laboratory with all neccessary equipment inside
Figure 3: The Suitcase lab. (Image credit: Ahmed Abd El Wahed)
  • The size of the suitcase is 62+49+30 cm, which is easy to carry, transport and ship. A glove box will be used to inactivate the samples to avoid contamination of the environment and keep the health care worker safe.
  • Power source from solar panel with power pack. 
  • Easy to be implemented in low resource settings
  • Cold chain independence as reagents can be kept at 38-40°C ambient temperature for months without any effect on the assay performance. 
  • A tight waste container allowing autoclaving or incinerating waste to avoid contamination of the environment.
  • Rapid time to result around 20 minutes including the extraction procedure.
Suitcaselab demonstration
Suitcase lab

Suitcase lab

Glove box for sample inactivation
Glove box for sample inactivation

Glove box for sample inactivation

The team

This project is funded by the EDCTP and the BRCCH. This project is a collaboration between partners in Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, Nigeria, DR Congo, Sudan and Uganda, where the field activities will take place, and partners in Germany, France and Switzerland involved with development and refinement of the SARS-COV-2 rapid diagnostic tests.

 Uganda

  • Dr. Julius Boniface Okuni, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity
    Makerere University

 Germany

 France

Ghana 

  • Dr. Michael Frimpong, Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine
    KCCR

 Senegal

 Madagascar

 Nigeria

 DR Congo

  • Dr. Sheila Makiala, Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale du Zaire
    INRB

 Sudan

Switzerland

Screenshot of one of the Africa Suitcaselab consortium online meetings showing the involved partners
Africa Suitcaselab consortium online meeting.

Publications & News

Check out our previous related and joint publications, news and recently published articles around our projects.

Yellow Fever Virus assay

Rapid Molecular Assays for the Detection of Yellow Fever Virus in Low-Resource Settings
Read More

Viral Hemorrhagic Fever assay

Development of Mobile Laboratory for Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Detection in Africa
Read More

SARS-COV-2 assay

Suitcase Lab for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Based on Recombinase Polymerase Amplification Assay
Read More

Dengue assay

Recombinase Polymerase Amplification Assay for Rapid Diagnostics of Dengue Infection
Read more

Ebola assay

Development and deployment of a rapid recombinase polymerase amplification Ebola virus detection assay in Guinea in 2015
read more

Mycobacterium ulcerans assay

Rapid detection of Mycobacterium ulcerans with isothermal recombinase polymerase amplification assay
read more

Chikungunya assay

A Field-Deployable Reverse Transcription Recombinase Polymerase Amplification Assay for Rapid Detection of the Chikungunya Virus
read more

Pan-rickettsial assay

Development of a pan-rickettsial molecular diagnostic test based on recombinase polymerase amplification assay
read more

EDCTP

Suitcase sized laboratory for rapid detection of SARS-COV-2 in Africa
read more

BRCCH

Joint initiative between BRCCH and EDCTP
read more

Consortium Partners

University of Ibadan

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Institut Pasteur de Madagascar

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Institut Pasteur de Dakar

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Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research Tropical Medicine

Logo of the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) logo (Image credit: Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine) (Ghana)
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Institut Pasteur

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INRB

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University of Khartoum

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COVAB Makerere University

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ETH Zürich

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midge medical GmbH

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TIB MOLBIOL Syntheselabor GmbH

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