In what is clearly a triumph for academic and industry synergy, a rapid diagnostic test kit for the new coronavirus has been developed in Ghana.
Scientists at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Incas Diagnostics, both based in the Ashanti Region capital, Kumasi, are currently optimising the kit for Covid-19 testing.
Scientists from the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR), one of the major testing centres for Covid-19 in Ghana, made significant inputs into the development.
The new RDT kit for Covid-19 is a boost for Ghana’s efforts at holding the disease that has – at the last count – claimed 11 lives and puts the life of some 1,550 at risk because it is consistent with the government’s strategy to dealing with the pandemic: contain the spread, inspire the expansion of domestic capability and deepen self-reliance.
The KNUST-Incas Diagnostic technology uses a finger-prick blood – just like blood glucose test or home pregnancy test – to detect two different types of antibodies produced by the body when it is fighting off Covid-19 infection at least seven days after infection – whether the person is showing symptoms or not.
This is a major breakthrough because, while the world waits for a vaccine, virologists are unanimous in their admonishment that widespread testing remains a key strategy to ‘flatten the curve’ of the pandemic anywhere.
The researchers at the two collaborating institutions explain that the current method of testing for Covid-19 in Ghana (from Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR) detects parts of the viral genome very early in infection and takes at least 48 hours from testing to results.
Although this method of testing is impressive and used in many other parts of the world, it can delay contact tracing and other efforts in the fight against the virus.
The PCR tests are also, unable to identify people who have been infected (symptomatic or asymptomatic) and recovered.
However, the KNUST-Incas Diagnostic kit detects asymptomatic cases, enables decentralised testing to be done anywhere without requiring any equipment
KNUST and Incas Diagnostics say throughout the development, they have been in touch with the Ministry of Health and the National Covid-19 Response Team.
The developers are currently engaging the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) for the necessary regulatory framework.
The breakthrough was achieved with the support from Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Professor Kwasi Obiri-Danso 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.