Working in an Ebola lab: a report from the field

A talk by our alumna Cristina Leggio

Many London Met alumni have gone on to pursue great careers and Cristina Leggio is certainly one of them.

After she completed her BSc Biomedical Science degree a couple of years ago she started working for Public Health England (PHE), and has recently visited London Met to share her success story and inspire our future scientists. 

In November 2014 Cristina volunteered to be deployed as part of the UK response to the current Ebola Outbreak in order to set up the 3rd PHE Ebola Diagnostic Laboratory in Makeni, Sierra Leone.

This lab, like all the other PHE labs in Sierra Leone, is built within the Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) and was designed to process samples both from the ETC and local community hospitals.

Cristina worked in a team which was responsible for putting the lab together (equipment and stock) and for providing the diagnostic service required to identify and isolate suspected Ebola patients.

Cristina’s talk was very educational and drew a great crowd of people. It explained the biology of the Ebola Virus Disease and its life cycle, key interventions to contain the outbreak and her daily tasks in Sierra Leone, including handling Ebola samples with three pairs of gloves!

When Cristina arrived in Sierra Leone she had to spend the first few weeks putting the lab together with her colleagues. “We were lucky we didn’t have to lay the bricks for the lab, but that is almost the only thing we didn’t do,” said Cristina.

Many things have changed since the outbreak: there are restrictions to population movement (eg. public gatherings are banned), schools and universities have been closed, international companies have left the country, road blocks and temperature check points are in place. “Despite the various restrictions and constraints, my team members were very resilient and positive, we supported each other,” shared Cristina.