Senegal begins production of rapid test kits for Coronavirus
London, March 12, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Rapid test kits that scientists say will diagnose coronavirus within 10 minutes are being developed in a laboratory in Dakar, Senegal’s capital
The project at the custom-built DiaTropix facility is a collaboration between British biotech firm Mologic and Senegal’s renowned Institut Pasteur de Dakar, according to industry website DevEx.
The rapid test kits will be manufactured in the U.K. and Senegal-the first time a rapid diagnostic test will be produced on the African continent.
A rapid test to diagnose patients with COVID-19 is still lacking but is seen as an essential tool in fighting the outbreak.
The laboratory tests currently used take several days, which could place huge burdens on health systems even in well-resourced countries as the virus spreads. It is hoped that a rapid test could take as little as a few minutes.
The plan has been described as “really exciting and quite novel” by Emily Adams, senior lecturer in diagnostics for infectious disease at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
Prototype rapid tests, developed in the U.K. by diagnostics technology company Mologic, are expected to be available for assessment in several weeks, while manufacturing in a new Senegalese facility, named DiaTropix, should begin in June, according to Adams, who is part of a team helping to evaluate the test.
She told Devex: “In lower- and middle-income countries, there are usually only few laboratories in entire countries which are able to perform molecular testing, so it’s a huge benefit to be able to diagnose coronavirus outside of laboratory infrastructure, with a cheap point-of-care test. An added value is that this will aid self-isolation, as suspects can be tested at home.”
“It’s time now the global south is given the tools and support to respond to their own challenges,” Adams added.
Patrick Vallance, the U.K.’s chief scientific officer, noted that “rapid testing is going to be key to managing this outbreak, but ultimately vaccines are going to provide the long-term protection we need.” Urgent work to develop a vaccine is already underway, but it will be at least a year until one can be rolled out.
A U.K. government statement said that it was also funding infectious disease experts to support lower-income countries that are highly exposed and have “large urban populations and transport links to the UK and to China and other countries experiencing large outbreaks.”
It said experts will “support countries to prepare for and respond to suspected cases, for example by creating effective isolation zones.”
DiaTropix is expected to produce 2 million units per year and to distribute tests directly within Africa. That should help keep costs down — lower-income countries are unlikely to be able to afford the prices set by Western medical companies for rapid tests — and improve distribution on the continent.
On Wednesday, the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
It has spread to 114 countries across the world from China in just over three months, infected 118,000 people and killed more than 4,200.
So far, 12 African countries have reported outbreaks with 112 cases in total and two deaths.