KNUST, Incas develop rapid diagnostic test kit for detecting COVID-19

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: https://citinewsroom.com

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The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Incas Diagnostics, a diagnostic company in Kumasi, have created a Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kit to help test for the novel coronavirus.

According to a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer of KNUST, Dr. Daniel Norris Bekoe, the creation of the test kit is in line with Ghana’s objectives in the fight against the coronavirus, specifically to “contain the spread of the virus, inspire the expansion of domestic capability and deepen self-reliance”.

The device, likened to the homemade kit used in testing glucose or pregnancy, only needs a finger-prick drop of blood from the individual and “detects two different types of antibodies produced by the body to fight off the COVID-19 infection about seven days after infection and also in those who have been exposed to the virus but not showing any symptoms (asymptomatic) or recovered from the infection”.

According to the statement, the testing process with this kit takes just about 15-20 minutes to perform, and “would enable those tested to know their results in a shorter time to enable decision making in real-time by health authorities”.

The COVID-19 RDT is however still being optimised and its “developers are currently engaging the Food and Drugs Authority for the necessary regulatory framework”.

Meanwhile, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Food and Drugs Authority are expected to complete work on RDT kits for COVID-19 this week.

Speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show on Monday, the Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said the RDTs, when ready, will augment current surveillance testing protocols.

He said, “This week we are expecting Noguchi, the FDA and the experts to report on an RDT option to assist our surveillance. We are of the view that would help quicken an answer to the incidence rate in Ghana assuming that is the model that we want to add to our intervention.”

Genome sequencing of coronavirus

No vaccine has yet been tested and approved for the novel coronavirus that has affected many countries globally.

Countries like the United Kingdom have developed vaccines and claim it has an 80% chance of success but is yet to test it on humans to determine its success or not.

Ghana, however, has gone a step ahead in fighting the disease by being able to track the virus.

Scientists at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens both at the University of Ghana have obtained information about the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

A communiqué from the Public Affairs Directorate of the University of Ghana on April 11 indicated that the scientists analysed 15 samples from some selected cases in Ghana to gain a comprehensive understanding of the differences of the virus in the country.

The samples were taken from travellers from UK, Norway, Hungary, India, United States, and the United Arab Emirates as well as nine from persons who had no history of travel and believed to have had community infections.

According to the statement, while there were some differences between the strains from the various countries, all the genomes have a resemblance to the strain isolated in the Wuhan Province where the outbreak began.

Ghana’s current case count

Ghana’s currently has 1,550 COVID-19 cases. This is according to the Ghana Health Service’s latest update on Sunday, April 26, 2020.

The updated case count comes after 271 more persons tested positive for the virus.

Per the update, one more person has died, making the number of deaths 11, while 21 additional recoveries have been confirmed.

Out of the 271 new cases reported, about 75 of them were detected through routine surveillance while 196 were found positive through the enhanced contact tracing exercise.

Read KNUST’s full statement below:

KNUST AND INCAS DIAGNOSTICS DEVELOP RAPID COVID-19 DIAGNOSTIC TEST

The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Incas Diagnostics, a diagnostic company in Kumasi have developed and are optimising Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for COVID-19 testing.

This significant contribution towards the fight against COVID-19 will augment the current COVID-19 testing regime in the country.

The development of the RDT is in line with two (2) of Ghana’s objectives in the fight against COVID-19; contain the spread of the virus, inspire the expansion of domestic capability and deepen self-reliance.

These serological tests which use a finger-prick blood and in lateral flow format, similar to blood glucose test or home pregnancy test, detects two different types of antibodies produced by the body to fight off the COVID-19 infection about 7 days after infection and also in those who have been exposed to the virus but not showing any symptoms (asymptomatic) or recovered from infection.

Current molecular diagnostics; Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) which is being used in the country detects parts of the viral genome very early in infection and takes at least 48 hours from testing to results; potentially delaying contact tracing and other efforts.

The PCR tests are also unable to identify people who have been infected (symptomatic or asymptomatic) and recovered.

However, KNUST/Incas RDT detects asymptomatic cases, enables decentralised testing to be done anywhere without requiring any equipment.

The device also requires little technical training for those performing the test.

The test which takes 15-20 minutes to perform, would enable those tested to know their results in a shorter time to enable decision making in real-time by health authorities.

A key use of this RDT would be for mass testing of the population 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.

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.

In the future, it could also, help identify recovered patients who could then donate their SARS-CoV-2 antibody-rich serum to help treat critically ill patients as is being done in some countries.

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.

For researchers in the country, the antibody tests would enable the study of the dynamics of immune responses of infected people.

As the country intends partnering and supporting COVID-19 vaccine development, the antibody tests would be invaluable in determining individual and community responses to the vaccine.

KNUST and Incas Diagnostics throughout the development have been in touch with the Ministry of Health and the National COVID-19 Response Team.

The developers are currently engaging the Food and Drugs Authority for the necessary regulatory framework.

KNUST salutes Scientists from the Departments of Clinical Microbiology, Medical Diagnostics, Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) and Incas Diagnostics for working tirelessly on this development.

Again, the team extends special appreciation to the Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Professor Kwasi Obiri-Danso for his immense support and encouragement.

The team is also, grateful to the following organisations; the Centre for Advanced Rapid Diagnostics, Mologic, UK, Mastercard Foundation through the Ghana Tech Lab, the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists and Dext Technologies, Kumasi for their support.