Scientists working on coronavirus testing kit

Friday March 27 2020
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A doctor takes a sample from a patient at the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on March 26, 2020. A team of scientists are working to avail rapid testing kits. AFP PHOTO.

KAMPALA- A team of scientists at Department of Pathology of Makerere University, who manufactured Ebola test kits have said they are working to avail rapid testing kits for coronavirus by end of April.

Dr Misaki Wayengera, a researcher at the Department of Pathology at Makerere University, who is the lead researcher, told Daily Monitor last week that the team started working on the kit in February.

“The test uses agglutination platform -where you get a swab from the nose or mouth, put it in the tube, shake and get results,” he said.

The scientist said unlike the current testing that require complex machine, the one being developed uses a small tube and can be used in remote upcountry hospitals.

“We took up the mandate to develop the kit because people were bothering us. We already identified some proteins that will work and we are testing them to see how they work,” he said.

Dr Misaki also said, the group was working with a French partner because they have the expertise to do it. He added that a lot of money is being put in vaccine development but they have not put diagnostics as priority.

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Asked what the price of the kits would be, Dr Misaki said the cost will be around $1 (approximately Shs4,000).

Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the Director of Uganda Virus Institute, the institution manning Covid-19 testing, said government was also working to decentralise testing in upcountry health facilities.

“We are making sure we can have easier and rapid tests so that they can go up country. There are tests coming that use GeneXpert machine that most upcountry hospital laboratories have,” he said.

Genexpert machine is that which is used to detect presence of bacteria or virus by analysing the presence of their DNA in a sample of blood, mouth or nose swabs.

Currently, the machines are majorly being used to test for tuberculosis.
Prof Kaleebu said the tests will be easily applicable because materials are more available.

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