Covid-19: Government on alert as fake test kits hit market

Friday April 3 2020

Sample testing devices used in diagnosing the

Sample testing devices used in diagnosing the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are checked on a production line as they are prepared to be included in testing kits for shipment at the SD Biosensor bio-diagnostic company near Cheongju, south of Seoul on March 27, 2020. AFP PHOTO 

By TONNY ABET

Government has put in place mechanisms to bar entry of fake testing kits that have hit the market from manufacturing companies in China.
Spain is one of the countries that has been hit hard. In a media report last week, officials in Spain are said to have withdrawn 58,000 testing kits procured from a Chinese company, saying their accuracy was very poor, at 30 per cent.
Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the director of Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), said the institute has put in place protocols to protect the country from influx of such kits.

“For all these kits we are evaluating to ensure they have no problem,” Prof Kaleebu told Daily Monitor yesterday in a telephone interview.
He said a number of kits they have got had varying sensitivity. He said they are using kits from Berlin supplied by WHO as gold standard to evaluate other kits.
“That is why the kits we are using need to have WHO or FDA approval and we have put in place protocol to further evaluate them,” the director said.
“Many people are producing the kits because it is a business. So you need very good evaluation mechanism,” he added.
He said less sensitive testing kits can be good to pick a positive result but may give a few false negative.

“So we repeat the tests or collect another sample in case the kits have low sensitivity,” the director added.
Last week, government received a donation of 20,081 testing kits from China based Alibaba Group, the Jack Ma foundation.
“Even the one we got from China (Alibaba Group) we did same evaluation. The Jack Ma kits are good and we are already using the items,” Kaleebu said.
The UVRI director said the institute has enough testing kits and human resource to serve Uganda.

He said it would be wastage of resources to start testing everyone.
“We don’t have issue with capacity. You don’t go into population and start testing everyone with cough and flu,” the director said.
“What we are doing is identify those at risk, those who have travelled in and their contacts and those who meet case definition. But if you do it the other way, you will be getting negative tests then you will need to do it every after 14 days and this would be wastage,” he added.
Prof Kaleebu said UVRI can do 500 tests in a day.
“We also have many laboratories in the country with machines that can run the tests. If the number of tests start overwhelming, we shall recruit other laboratories,” he added.

Govt gives quick tips on testing

How many tests are we carrying out per day?
It varies, the biggest number we have so far tested is 230. But at first we always had only one or two samples to test –Dr Julius Lutwama, deputy director of Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI).

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How many tests should we be carrying out per day?
The (number of) tests depend on the alerts and contacts we get .We have enough test kits in the country - Dr Diana Atwine, permanent secretary of Ministry of Health.

How are our test numbers adjusted compared to population size?
What we are doing is identify those at risk, those who have travelled in and their contacts and those who meet case definition of cough, flu and fever.
You don’t go into population and start testing everyone with cough and flu. If you do it this way, you will be getting negative tests then you will need to do it every after 14 days as protocol demands and this would be wastage –Prof Kaleebu, director of UVRI.

What will happen when we need to do 200-300 or more tests per day?
We can do 500 tests on daily basis and so we don’t have problems with capacity.
We also have many laboratories in the country with machines that can run the tests. If the number of tests start overwhelming, we shall recruit other laboratories –Prof Pontiano Kaleebu.

Where have the test kits donated by Jack Ma gone, and how accurate are they?
We (received 20,081 test kits and we) have them at UVRI. They are already being used.
We did evaluate them against kits from supplied by WHO and they are good and already being used –Prof Kaleebu.

Why have people been queueing up in Mulago just to get tested?
This testing takes some time. We encourage (people) to first call (0800203033, 0800303033, 0800100066) and also be given appointment –Dr Atwine.
People imagine that they should get results very fast. We always have to wait for many samples so we run them in a batch of samples to not waste reagents. This is why results may take time to come out. –Dr Lutwama.

And what does the test entail? Is it a blood test? A nasal swab?
It can be blood, nasal or mouth swab depending on the condition of the patient –Dr Lutwama.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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