South Africa under-testing for Covid-19, says research scientist

By Jehran Daniel

Durban – As South Africa sees a surge in the number of its Covid-19 cases, a senior research scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) says the country is under-testing for the novel coronavirus.

Dr Previn Naicker of the CSIR came to this conclusion after looking at the portion of positive cases in relation to the number of tests conducted.

On Tuesday, the CSIR announced that South Africa was in the development stages of a new Covid-19 testing kit that aims to free the country of its dependence on international suppliers.

The work is being funded by the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, the South African Medical Research Council and the Technology Innovation Agency.

“There are testing facilities that are not running at full capacity because there are not enough diagnostic reagents. The project will ensure that we close that gap and reduce the turnaround time of testing,” said Naicker on Tuesday.

CSIR and ReSyn Biosciences, a local company specialising in magnetic microsphere solutions for life-sciences research and development, will together produce magnetic beads for extracting viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) from test samples.

The advantage of using magnetic beads is that RNA extraction can be automated.

“Every step of the diagnostic process that can be automated makes for better testing,” said Naicker.

Naicker explained that if the development phase went according to plan, the new test kit would be market-ready in six months.

“Based on the capacity of our local partners, kits for the extraction of a minimum of 5,000 samples can be assembled per day at a certified facility and we are in discussions with two proposed facilities thus far,” he added.

The new testing kit could support at least 10,000 more Covid-19 tests per day.

As of Monday, South Africa had conducted a total of 2,802,211 Covid-19 tests. The country has recorded a total of 452,529 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 7,067 deaths.

The number of recoveries is 274,925, a recovery rate of 61%.

African News Agency

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