There has been a scientific breakthrough in Ghana’s fight against the outbreak of the novel coronavirus coming from KNUST in Kumasi.
To add to the research to find a vaccine and the local production of PPEs in Ghana, scientists at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in collaboration with Incas Diagnostics, a diagnostic company in Kumasi, have developed an indigenous COVID-19 test kit to boost Ghana’s testing capacity.
KNUST and Incas Diagnostics have developed and are optimising a Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for COVID-19 testing.
This very important contribution by KNUST towards the fight against COVID-19 will complement the current coronavirus testing regime in Ghana.
Developing the Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) is in line with two (2) of Ghana’s objectives in the fight against COVID-19; contain the spread of the virus, inspire the expansion of domestic capability and deepen self-reliance.
Using a finger-prick blood and in lateral flow format, similar to blood glucose test or home pregnancy test, these serological test detects two different types of antibodies produced by the body to fight off the COVID-19 infection about 7 days after infection and also in those who have been exposed to the virus but not showing any symptoms (asymptomatic) or recovered from infection.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is the current molecular diagnostics, which is being used in Ghana, detects parts of the viral genome very early in infection and takes at least 48 hours from testing to results; potentially delaying contact tracing and other efforts.
Another short coming of the PCR tests is that it is also unable to identify people who have been infected (symptomatic or asymptomatic) and recovered.
But, KNUST/Incas RDT detects asymptomatic cases, enables decentralised testing to be done anywhere without requiring any equipment. It also requires little technical training for those performing the test.
The RDT takes 15-20 minutes to perform and would enable those tested to know their results in a shorter time to enable decision making in real-time by health authorities.
A key use of this RDT would be for mass testing of the population to identify all those who have been exposed to the virus and thus provide key data for efforts to model the course of the pandemic and also enhance contact tracing efforts.
By indicating how much of the population is already likely immune because of mild coronavirus infections, antibody data can offer a key to how fast the virus will continue to spread.
It could also, in the future, help identify recovered patients who could then donate their SARS-CoV-2 antibody-rich serum to help treat critically ill patients as is being done in some countries.
The RDT can also be used to identify frontline health workers who have been infected and developed likely immunity to the virus.
They would then be able to return to work early and treat patients safely.
The antibody tests, for researchers in Ghana, would enable the study of the dynamics of immune responses of infected people.
As Ghana intends partnering and supporting COVID-19 vaccine development, the antibody tests would be invaluable in determining individual and community responses to the vaccine.
KNUST and Incas Diagnostics throughout the development have been in touch with the Ministry of Health and the National COVID-19 Response Team.
The Food and Drugs Authority is currently being engaged by the developers for the necessary regulatory framework.