The fortified Toyota Land Cruiser slipped and bounced in the muddy hollows of the rain-drenched Mongolian steppe. The driver, a native Mongolian man named Inka, slowly engineered the vehicle along what just two days earlier was a dusty pair of dirt tracks. In the back seat, Master of Science in Global Health students Laura Pulscher and Thomas Moore braced themselves during the ride, relaxing when Inka stopped the vehicle to ask a goat herder for directions.
Mongolia, a country of rugged, windswept expanses, is home to three million people and 50 million horses, camels, sheep and cattle. It is there that Greg Gray, professor of global health, infectious diseases and environmental sciences, has set up a remote research outpost that could detect the next global infectious disease pandemic. Gray and his Mongolian colleagues are collaborating in a NIH-funded project that brings rapid influenza diagnostic equipment to rural areas where previously health professionals had to send samples to the national capitol and wait up to two weeks for results.