Scientists in Nigeria have developed a cheaper and faster COVID-19 test kit that will 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.
The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) said the new test is cheaper than other PCR tests, the most common type of test, and can give results in less than 40 minutes.
NIMR noted 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.
Speaking with CNN, the director of NIMR, Babatunde Salako, 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 the common PCR one. We bought the machine and adapted the kit that we developed to work with this machine. It is meant for diagnosis of other pathogens”.
Although Salako added that the detection rate of the NIMR test kit is “a bit lower than the PCR, but for the point of care, we believe it is good enough for now.”
Nigeria currently imports PCR test kits from China and has faced challenges in getting enough kits to test most of its population of 200 million.
“We thought this one was very important as it will diversify the way testing is done. With this one, all the people in villages and remote areas can be tested by moving the machine to those villages,” Salako further said.
So far, Nigeria has recorded more than 59,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,000 deaths as of October 2, according to figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Health authorities also report a declining number of cases, with treatment centers, known as isolation centers, being closed in the country.
Nigeria has Africa’s largest population and has tested only about 500,000 people, according to figures from local health authorities. The PCR test is the most widespread and accurate diagnostic test.