BY Mohammed Awal, 1:20pm April 21, 2020,

South Africans develop COVID-19 test kits that give results in an hour

Photo: The Intercept

Two South African techpreneurs have created a trailblazing COVID-19 test kit that provides results in just 65 minutes. The invention will prove critical in South Africa’s fight against the fatal contagion. The country has so far recorded 3,300 confirmed cases of the virus with 58 deaths and 1,055 recoveries.

The duo – Daniel Ndima and Dineo Lioma – of CapeBio, a dynamic applied genomics company, develop and manufacture molecular biology reagents, enzymes, and kits sourced from indigenous African microbial hotspots. They are also Allan Gray fellows.

Enhanced and continuous testing is very important in the global fight against the coronavirus outbreak. It has been identified not only as a way to identify infected persons but also explains how the virus develops with various jurisdictions.

Named qCPR, the testing kits are already being hailed as a massive breakthrough in South Africa’s campaign against the disease. South Africa is Africa’s number one nation in testing.

South Africans develop COVID-19 test kits that give results in an hour
Photo: Allan Gray Orbis Foundation

“The ability to obtain rapid test results allows us to gain a clearer picture of viral infections so that we are able to introduce interventions with greater effectiveness. This will remain important even after lockdown, as South Africa has a population of over 55 million people who will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis,” Ndima, a scientist with a special interest in structural biology, told the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

“One of our major challenges is our reliance on imported tests. Most countries are currently experiencing issues with supply and demand, which their respective governments are controlling with newly introduced trade regulations. This has caused delays in the delivery of imported testing kits and protective gears, and may impact on the delivery of vaccines once they have passed clinical trials.”

Ndima said qCPR test kits help pathologists isolate and identify a virus DNA or genetic material from an infected person. “This makes it possible to detect the virus accurately in a laboratory,” he stated.

Lioma, who has a master’s degree in micro and nanotechnology from Cambridge University in the UK said, “I knew I wanted to work in the field of health and to help South Africa progress. There was not a lot going on in micro and nanotechnology here, so I came home. I wanted to give back.”

As a locally manufactured product, the qCPR will mitigate the country’s over-reliance on overseas imports, ensuring that testing reagents could be accessed quickly and without a wait. They are also more affordable than international products. 

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: April 21, 2020


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