KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — A Covid-19 test that can give results within 15 to 30 minutes will soon be rolled out across 20 countries in Africa from October onwards, CNN reported.
According to The Guardian, the coronavirus diagnostic test, which looks like a pregnancy test with two blue lines displayed for positive, will have to be read by a health care worker. As the test is quick and easy, it allows for mass screenings in schools, universities, and workplaces.
Dr Charlotte Summers, a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge, told the Guardian that the rapid diagnostic test, which still requires a clinical swab to be taken from the person being tested, detects Covid-19 antigens (proteins which is a part of the virus) and not the genetic material of the virus. Hence, it is able to produce a result within 30 minutes.
She said that this test has been evaluated in communities with high levels of coronavirus transmission and has successfully shown its effectiveness at detecting the disease between two days prior to the onset of symptoms and five to seven days after the symptoms appear.
One of the tests produced by SD BioSensor, a South Korean company, has just been given emergency approval by the World Health Organization (WHO), while another test from US company Abbott is expected to get approval shortly.
The tests developed by Abbott and SD Biosensor are highly portable, reliable, and easy to administer, which makes testing possible in near person and decentralised health care settings.
This enables countries to increase the pace of testing, tracing, and treating individuals infected with Covid-19, particularly in areas with under-resourced health systems.
While countries like North America test 395 people per 100,000 population daily and Europe tests 243 people, low and middle-income countries test even fewer individuals. Africa tests fewer than 16 individuals daily.
The two companies are said to supply 120 million rapid antigen tests to low and middle-income countries for US$5 (RM20.78) each or even less.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that these tests will help in expanding testing to remote areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out the PCR test.
The PCR test, although it is a most accurate diagnostic test in determining if someone is infected with the coronavirus, requires specialised supplies, expensive instruments, and the expertise of trained lab technicians.
“Though PCR testing will remain the ‘gold standard’, the new rapid antigen tests are a useful tool for managing the pandemic. As we’ve often heard during this crisis, viruses don’t respect national borders. So it’s critical that every nation is able to deliver effective testing, contact tracing and isolation programmes,” Dr Charlotte Summers said.
The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) has put the sensitivity of this test at between 80 per cent and 90 per cent in real world conditions. Sensitivity of a test means how often a test is able to correctly generate a positive result for people who have the condition that is being tested for.
WHO has recently announced a global partnership to make 120 million affordable quality Covid-19 rapid tests available for low- and middle-income countries.
Among the organisations involved in this agreement include the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), FIND, the Global Fund, Unitaid, and WHO.