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SAMRC & partners to develop local diagnostics, reagents for COVID-19 testing

Delays in processing results for coronavirus tests threaten this goal, but interventions are underway attempting to unclog bottlenecks in the system.

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

CAPE TOWN - As the country moves to even more relaxed level 3 lockdown rules, efficient COVID-19 tracking and testing mechanisms have become more important than ever.

Delays in processing results for coronavirus tests threaten this goal but interventions are underway attempting to unclog bottlenecks in the system.

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and other partners have joined hands to secure the development of local diagnostics and reagents for COVID-19 testing.

Countries across the world have ramped up testing, with a general agreement that mass testing campaigns were among the best weapons in the fight against the virus.

But the results of lockdowns, specifically the shutting down of airspace, meant importing test kits was a lot more difficult now.

Reagents were in short supply, they are the special chemicals used to prepare a nasal swab specimen so that it could be tested for COVID-19.

Executive director at SAMRC, Professor Richard Gordon, said that they now had a team of scientists from various bodies working on producing these components locally.

“We are looking to try and fund those elements that could be potentially made locally that we don’t need to import so we can be self-reliant on some of these testing kits,” Gordon said.

For the moment, the teams were focused on churning out PCG test reagents – that is the gold standard COVID-19 test involving a nose or throat swab.

But they would also be looking at the production of rapid tests that detect the presence of COVID-19 viral proteins and particles.

SAMRC researchers were aiming to have functional prototypes of those tests manufactured within the next four to six months.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.

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