Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Incas Diagnostics, a diagnostic company in Kumasi have developed and are optimising Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for COVID-19 testing. This significant contribution towards the fight against COVID-19, will augment the current COVID-19 testing regime in the country. The development of the RDT is in line with two (2) of Ghana’s objectives in the fight against COVID-19; contain the spread of the virus, inspire the expansion of our domestic capability and deepen our self-reliance.
These serological tests which use a finger-prick blood and in lateral flow format, similar to blood glucose test or home pregnancy test, detects two different types of antibodies produced by the body to fight off the COVID-19 infection about 7 days after infection and also in those who have been exposed to the virus but not showing any symptoms (asymptomatic) or recovered from infection.
Current molecular diagnostics; Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) which is being used in the country detects parts of the viral genome very early in infection and takes at least 48 hours from testing to results; potentially delaying contact tracing and other efforts. The PCR tests are also, unable to identify people who have been infected (symptomatic or asymptomatic) and recovered. However, KNUST/Incas RDT detects asymptomatic cases, enables decentralised testing to be done anywhere without requiring any equipment. The device also, requires little technical training for those performing the test. The test which takes 15-20 minutes to perform, would enable those tested to know their results in a shorter time to enable decision making in real time by health authorities.
A key use of this RDT would be for mass testing of the population to identify all those who have been exposed to the virus and thus provide key data for efforts to model the course of the pandemic and also, enhance contact tracing efforts. By indicating how much of the population is already likely immune because of mild infections, antibody data can offer a key to how fast the virus will continue to spread. In the future, it could also, help identify recovered patients who could then donate their SARS-CoV-2 antibody-rich serum to help treat critically ill patients as is being done in some countries.
Another key application would be to identify frontline health workers who have been infected and developed likely immunity to the virus. They would then be able to return to work early and treat patients safely. For researchers in the country, the antibody tests would enable the study of the dynamics of immune responses of infected people. As the country intends partnering and supporting Covid-19 vaccine development, the antibody tests would be invaluable in determining individual and community responses to the vaccine.
KNUST and Incas Diagnostics throughout the development have been in touch with the Ministry of Health and the National Covid-19 Response Team. The developers are currently engaging the Food and Drug Authority for the necessary regulatory framework.
KNUST salutes Scientists from the Departments of Clinical Microbiology, Medical Diagnostics, Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research (KCCR) and Incas Diagnostics for working tirelessly on this development. Again, the team extends special appreciation to the Vice-Chancellor of KNUST, Professor Kwasi Obiri-Danso for his immense support and encouragement. The team is also, grateful to the following organisations; The Centre for Advanced Rapid Diagnostics, Mologic, UK, Mastercard Foundation through the Ghana Tech Lab, the Ghana Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists and Dext Technologies, Kumasi for their support.