In late 2005 The Wellcome Trust (London, UK) approved funding support for (amongst other MODS-related projects) the development of a portable TB laboratory for deployment around the prisons of Peru.
We ran a national design competition in Peru with the specific intention of fomenting interest in biomedical laboratory design and engineering amongst design, architecture and engineering students and graduates; the competition winners (Méctamo) joined the project team (which included experts from MIT D-Lab, TDR and the Peruvian Instituto Nacional de Salud) in creating a final design and worked with the container conversion company (R&C Contenedores SAC) to deliver the finished product.
Then on August 15th 2007 a massive earthquake (magnitude 8) shook southern Peru and wrecked the major cities of Pisco and Ica in the Region of Ica. The remains of the regional hospital in Ica were deemed unsafe and a tented field hospital was quickly established elsewhere in the city. There was no longer a regional TB laboratory for Ica.
With the generous approval of the Wellcome Trust the first portable TB laboratory - emblazoned with "MODS" on one side as this was to have been the pivotal tool for active case finding campaigns in the prisons - was redirected to Ica where for several years it became the temporary regional TB laboratory, delivering smear microscopy services including EQA as well as MODS to the population of Ica.
It has recently been redeployed by the Peruvian Ministry of Health to Tacna, highlighting the flexibility afforded by the mobile platform.
We have been surprised at the scepticism with which this simple innovation has been met by some opinion leaders in the TB world.
Given the vast shortfall in laboratory capacity and the recognition that addressing this inequitable "inverse care law" deficit demands delivery of a large quantity of high quality laboratories we believe that containerized laboratories have a potentially huge role to play.