By Balogun Damilola
Researchers in Ghana have developed a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kit for COVID-19 as part of efforts to aid quicker diagnosis.
The scientists at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Incas Diagnostics, both of which are based in Kumasi, are now optimising the new-found kit for COVID-19 testing.
Daniel Norris Bekoe, KNUST’s public relations officer, in a statement to local media outlets on Monday, said the new RDT kit comes as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus while deepening Ghana’s self-reliance.
He said the technology uses a finger-prick to obtain blood samples towards detecting two different types of antibodies usually produced when the immune system is fighting off COVID-19 — seven days after being infected.
In Ghana and across many countries, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing method, which detects parts of the viral genome very early in infection and takes at least 48 hours to obtain results, is largely still being used.
Although the researchers described the current method as being impressive, they expressed concern that it could delay contact tracing and other efforts in the fight against the virus due to how long it takes to obtain test results.
The experts, whose work was also aided by the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR), explained that PCR tests are unable to identify people who have been infected but later recovered, unlike their new-found RDT kit.
According to Bekoe, the kit would allow decentralised tests to be carried out anywhere within 15 to 20 minutes and enable people anxious to know their COVID-19 status to do so in record time ahead of decision making.
“A key use of this RDT would be for mass testing to identify all those who have been exposed to the virus and thus provide key data for efforts to model the course of the pandemic and also, enhance contact tracing efforts,” he said.
“By indicating how much of the population is already likely immune because of mild infections, antibody data can offer a key to how fast the virus will continue to spread.
“Another key application would be to identify frontline health workers who have been infected and developed likely immunity to the virus. They would then be able to return to work early and treat patients safely.”
Ghana’s new-found RDT kit comes after President Nana Akufo-Addo had unveiled the nation’s plan to build a total of 90 hospitals within one year in the wake of the current global health crisis.