Mobile Influenza Analysis (Mia) Kits
CDC Innovations: “Lab in A Backpack”
Between 2010 and 2019, more than 450 people were infected with novel influenza viruses of swine origin in the U.S. Close interaction between people and pigs, most often in an agricultural fair setting, increases exposure and risk of human infections with swine flu viruses. So far, person-to-person spread in these situations has been limited. However, should a swine influenza virus change so that it causes ongoing spread between people, it could cause a widespread epidemic or a pandemic.
In 2018, a group of CDC scientists tested the Mobile Influenza Analysis (Mia) -a portable lab with mobile sequencing technology- to analyze the full genomes of influenza viruses. After testing the technology and methodology at CDC headquarters, John Barnes (microbiologist and team lead), Matthew Keller (post-doctoral fellow), Malania Wilson (biologist), and Ben Rambo-Martin (bioinformation specialist) departed to test Mia in the field.
At a swine barn, the CDC team used Mia to analyze specimens collected by onsite veterinarians from more than 90 pigs. The field analysis revealed an outbreak of swine influenza A viruses among the pigs. The full genetic sequence data of the virus causing the outbreak was sent to CDC electronically, where that information can be used as a blueprint to “build” a virus for use in vaccine production (called a candidate vaccine virus).
STEP ONE: Gathering Samples
Veterinarians from Ohio State University swabbed more than 90 pigs in the barn; seven tested positive for influenza. CDC scientists then sequenced the viruses in those samples, and compared the sequences to other influenza viruses.
STEP TWO: Sequencing the Samples
That night, the CDC genomics sequencing team set up the equipment on a picnic table in an empty horse stall located near the swine. Working throughout the night, CDC scientists sequenced the samples.
STEP THREE: Analyzing the Samples
After the complex work of sequencing the swine samples was done, CDC scientists evaluated the data they had collected.
This laptop screen shows a colorful phylogenetic tree. Scientists use phylogenetic trees to visually illustrate how closely related the eight RNA segments of the viruses isolated from pig samples are to RNA segments from previously identified influenza viruses.
Mobile Influenza Analysis (Mia)
These two cases are just part of Mia. Mia consists of multiple watertight, hard-sided cases filled with technological devices such as thermocyclers, MinIONs, a vortex, a small centrifuge, and a fluorimeter. A laptop is also included, along with a bag of pipette tips and power strips.
Created by CDC scientists, Mia can fully sequence an influenza virus genome in the field. Being able to sequence data outside of the lab saves time, and provides real-time information about potential outbreaks. Unlike previous genetic sequencing methods that require up to a week to complete, portable labs, such as Mia, enable scientists to fully sequence genomes in the field within a few hours.
Mia not only saves time, but also removes shipping costs, making it an attractive option for improving surveillance in developing countries.