Institut Pasteur de Dakar, a specialised research facility in Senegal, is partnering with British biotech firm, Mologic to develop coronavirus test kits that can diagnose COVID-19 in about ten minutes.
The research is backed by a £1 million grant from the UK government as part of its efforts to combat the deadly coronavirus.
Since its discovery in December 2019, there have been over 150,000 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), with over 6,000 deaths. The virus has had ripple effects on the global economy, crashing stocks, cryptocurrencies and major events even as more countries are being locked down and travelling banned.
The process of getting the test results for the virus is also tedious and in some cases expensive – up to $400. In Nigeria for example where there have only been 2 confirmed cases, it could take up to 6 hours to get the results.
These delays in getting test results could hinder efforts to track the number of coronavirus tests performed and the spread of the disease.
Africa with its fragile healthcare system is at more risk. The continent has had only about 200 cases in more than 20 countries. But if it must nip an outbreak in the bud, it will need faster and more affordable means of testing to quickly confirm cases.
Several companies have thus been working on faster and cheaper means of detecting this virus. One of them is UK based Mologic Ltd, together with Institut Pasteur de Dakar (IPD).
A biomedical research centre in Senegal, IPD has been very instrumental in protecting and promoting public health across the continent. The centre has a major influence on the continent, having being in existence for over 120 years and producing vaccines for 2/3 of the time.
Now, using technology from home pregnancy and malaria tests, the coronavirus test kits will be able to detect the COVID-19 antibody with a person’s saliva and blood from a finger prick. These kits will be manufactured in Senegal by diaTropix and will cost less than $1.
However, the kits won’t be available until June. In the meantime, philanthropic efforts from countries and individuals are providing test kits and face masks for the African continent. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma plans to distribute between about 20,000 test kits and 100,000 masks per African country. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also plans to distribute 200,000 coronavirus test kits across the continent in the coming days.