The World Health Organisation,WHO, African Region, has thrown its weight behind the use of rapid diagnostic test kits for COVID-19 in Africa, noting several merits of the technology for the region.
The agency disclosed its readiness to support nations with the development of policy and guidance that can be rolled out to countries.
Dr Belinda Herring, a virologist with the WHO African Region, emphasised the essence of the kits, saying rapid diagnostic tests are more efficient, affordable, easy to use and will be a game changer for testing and diagnostics in the region.
Meanwhile the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, MLSCN, has recently stated that none of the antigen or antibody detection test kits is recommended for SARS-CoV-2 infection testing in Nigeria.
The agency, through the outcome of the second batch of its Pre-Market Validation of COVID-19 test kits done recently, found that all the antigen and antibody test kits, rapid or otherwise, failed to meet the minimum acceptable criteria.
According to the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of MLSCN, Dr Tosan Erhabor, said:“No SARS-CoV-2 rapid test kit is currently approved for use in Nigeria”.
Explaining WHO’s support for the device, Herring, who spoke through the WHO African Region’s verified Twitter handle disclosed that the rollout of the antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests are going to be a significant turning point for testing in the Africa Region.
“We are going to train people on how to use them particularly staff in our sub-national or district areas, and more importantly WHO is going to support countries to procure these tests to enable greater testing in their countries.
“Countries will be able to increase the number of tests that they do from hundreds to thousands in a day because these tests are cheaper and easier to use than what is the gold standard now which is PCR detection.
“With the rapid diagnostic tests, you can get results within an hour. This will enable communities or populations to be tested, identify cases rapidly, you can identify infected contacts, you can then do contact tracing and also put in place public health measures such as isolation and quarantine in a very short space of time”, she stated.
The virologist however noted that rapid diagnostic tests are not a new technology but the antigen tests for COVID are a new player in the diagnostic repertoire for COVID-19.