exhausted from testing for monkeypox and Lassa fever, Nigerian molecular
bio-engineer Nnaemeka Ndodo had to work well past midnight earlier this month
to find out if six Chinese construction workers were infected with the
coronavirus. Ndodo had to collect samples from a hospital an hour away
in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, then wait for six hours to get the results in
what’s one of only five laboratories able to test for the virus in Nigeria,
Africa’s most populous nation.
In about three months’ time, U.K.-based Mologic Ltd., in collaboration with Senegalese research foundation Institut Pasteur de Dakar, could shorten that wait to 10 minutes with a test that will help a continent with the world’s most fragile healthcare system cope with the pandemic.
few resources and staff, authorities are racing to contain the spread of the
disease in Africa, which accounts for 1% of global health expenditure but
carries 23% of the disease burden, including hundreds of thousands of deaths
each year from malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.
of 54 countries on the continent have the capacity to test for the coronavirus,
but a spike in cases could overwhelm laboratories. Ethiopian Prime Minister
Abiy Ahmed said Sunday he struck a partnership with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma
to distribute between 10,000 and 20,000 test kits and 100,000 masks per African
country, as well as newly developed guidebooks for treatment.
the Ethiopia-based Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention expects to
distribute 200,000 tests across the continent next week, mostly from
Berlin-based TIB Molbiol GmbH, according to the group’s head of laboratory,
is no shortage of lab tests in Africa, but what we want is the faster, cheaper
test to quickly confirm if there is an outbreak and contain it before it gets
bigger,”said Rosanna Peeling, chair of diagnostics research at the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
technology from home pregnancy and malaria tests, Mologic’s saliva and
finger-prick kit could be ready for sale by June for less than $1 apiece.
“We are ensuring that these
tests are made accessible at the cost of manufacture,” said Joe Fitchett,
medical director of Mologic, which received a $1.2 million grant from the U.K.
government to develop the test.
current Covid-19 tests, known as PCR tests, detect the genetic material of the
pathogen in a laboratory process that can take several hours and cost over $400
in some private facilities.