Nigeria to Use HIV Test Equipment to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will begin repurposing equipment designed for HIV and tuberculosis tests to accelerate COVID-19 testing, reports Tech Cabal.

This is according to Chikwe Ihekweazu, director-general of the NCDC, who relayed the information on an audience participation video session on Thursday last week – live-streamed on Facebook and Twitter.

NCDC received the first set of supplies of the equipment the same Thursday. Iheweazu says that with the new equipment, the number of tests performed around the country will increase due to the advantage of an automated process.

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The NCDC has been relying on semi-automated real-time PCR process tests that delivered results between 3 and 8 hours of testing. The new system is expected to significantly reduce this wait.

“Over the next few days, you will see the testing numbers rise exponentially. The bottleneck is not about the testing capacity in the lab. It’s the efficiency of collecting the right samples from the right patients and bringing them to [NCDC’s molecular] labs,” Ihekweazu says.

Nigeria now has 12 24-hour labs for COVID-19 testing, an improvement on the five labs that existed when confirmations came in of the first case of the virus in the country. There are plans to cite labs in all 26 states and the federal capital territory. Currently, the virus has spread to 19 states, plus the FCT.

Ihekweazu says that the process of adding private-sector labs to the testing effort has since commenced. The first of which will be a lab on Kaduna.

54Gene, a biotech company, is also scheduled to join the testing fray, Ihekweazu says. The startup raised $500-thousand in funding to increase NCDC virus-testing capabilities.

On February 27, Nigeria’s first coronavirus case was confirmed. Since then, 493 people have tested positive. 17 have died and 159 have recovered.

Edited by Luis Monzon

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