Nigerian Scientists have developed cheaper and faster Covid-19 test kits as part of the strategy to hasten the treatment and containment of the coronavirus disease across the country.
This is expected to enable testing to be ramped up in a place that has faced kit shortages and chronic under-testing of a massive population, according to the country’s health authorities.
According to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), this newly developed test is cheaper than other PCR tests, the most common type of test, and can give results in less than 40 minutes.
NIMR also disclosed that the diagnostic test kit will cost less than $25 and samples can be analyzed using a mobile machine that can be operated by low-skilled personnel with minimal training.
The Director of NIMR, Babatunde Salako in his chat with CNN said, “We saw the need for more testing outfits, especially one that can give results in a short time because hospitals were refusing to treat patients without Covid-19 results. The machine we use is not a common PCR one. We bought the machine and adapted the kit that we developed to work with this machine. It is meant for the diagnosis of other pathogens.”
Salako noted that although the detection rate of the NIMR test kit is a bit lower than the PCR tests, it still believes that it is good enough for now for the point of care. He thinks that this will diversify the way testing is done as people in rural areas can be tested by getting these machines to those remote places.
Testing has become a huge challenge in the country with some Nigerians complaining of the high cost of conducting those tests which are mostly supposed to be free. It also includes the challenge in getting enough kits to test most of its huge population.
According to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the country has recorded 59,287 confirmed cases, with 50,718 being discharged and 1,113 deaths in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory as of October 3, 2020. A total of 532,765 tests have also been carried out as of October 3, 2020, compared to 520,797 tests a day earlier. This means that 11,968 tests were done for the day.
The PCR test is the most widespread and accurate diagnostic test for determining whether someone is currently infected with coronavirus disease. However, the tests require specialized supplies, expensive instruments, and the expertise of trained lab technicians, which has led to shortages and a testing gap globally.
This cheaper and faster testing method will help boost the efforts of the health authorities in further reducing the infection rate of Covid-19 as Nairametrics had earlier reported that the NCDC disclosed that the rate of infection declined due to increased rate of testing across the states.
Testing in Nigeria is usually free in state-owned laboratories, which are few and are only in major cities. And sometimes, health officials have had to transfer samples to other states to confirm results because of a shortage of kits.
Salako revealed that the newly developed test kits will be mass-produced once validated by the regulatory authorities, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria.
He said the only limitation is that they have to produce more samples of these kits and acquire some new machines that are key to their work. But he noted that once that is done, they can mass produce with government support and serve markets in all of Africa.
In a separate announcement this week, the World Health Organization, working with several regional partners and donor agencies, said it had concluded plans to supply 120 million “affordable” and high-quality Covid-19 rapid tests to low- and middle-income countries, including in Africa.
The antigen rapid diagnostic tests, the agency said, would sell below $5.