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Research project under way to boost supply of COVID-19 testing reagents

As a result of progress made on South Africa's screening, testing and tracing campaign, the National Health Laboratory Service is inundated with tests needing to be processed.

FILE: Medical swabs to test for coronavirus. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - A national research innovation project is under way to boost the supply of reagents needed for COVID-19 testing.

As a result of progress made on South Africa's screening, testing and tracing campaign, the National Health Laboratory Service is inundated with tests needing to be processed.

Over the past seven days, a collaboration with private sector laboratories saw an average of 13,200 coronavirus tests being processed daily.

Department of Health data shows state health laboratories conducted an average of 9,200 COVID-19 tests every day last week.

Private labs managed an average of 7,870 every 24 hours.

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Department of Science and Innovation and the Technology Innovation Agency have teamed up to fast track the local development of reagents and test kits.

SAMRC executive director Professor Richard Gordon said the innovation project was geared towards boosting local PCR-based testing capacity.

"It's about trying and looking at what components of these test kits and tests could be manufactured locally and essentially we're looking at the innovators in South Africa who are working in this space to see if we can help them innovate in scale."

Gordon said they were looking for the development of novel tests that could rapidly detect the presence of the COVID-19 preferably at the point of care.

"As the main screener.... public lab in the country, the NHLS, is absolutely vital and we need to find out the best way that the country can support them to achieve their objective so essentially more lives could be saved."

Since COVID-19 hit the country, more than 460,000 laboratory tests for the disease have been performed.

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