The federal government has launched RNASwift, a diagnostic kit, for the identification of the causal agent of COVID-19.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Alex Akpa, director-general of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), the agency that developed the kit, said the RNASwift test kit is an indigenous diagnostic test kit designed, developed and validated in Nigeria for the identification of the causal agent –SARS-Cov-2– which causes COVID-19.
Akpa said the RNASwift test kit will not only revolutionalise Africa’s PCR-based COVID-19 testing but also expand the capacity by at least, 50 times.
He also said it will equally reduce cost by over 500 percent as compared to the conventional kit in use.
“This meets the demands of the Test Africa Initiative. The kits will be produced in Nigeria, which is great news considering that it will enable preference to be given to the testing needs of Africa,” he said.
“The need for the invention was conceived by the request from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), to test five million farmers and farmhands.
“This was to ensure that our food security chain was not compromised by COVID-19.”
He said the diagnostic kit is “very accurate and sensitive’’ and competes favourably with conventional and commercially available kits for the diagnosis of COVID-19.
“This is in addition to a careful choice of reagents that are human and environmentally friendly in the development of the protocol for the diagnostic kit,” Akpa said.
“In fact, the attributes of the RNASwift kits make it a game-changer in the design and production of diagnostic kits for infectious diseases in the face of an epidemic or a pandemic.”
He also said the project was made possible by the scientific collaboration between NABDA, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).
In his speech at the briefing, Ogbonnaya Onu, minister of science and technology, said he had tasked Nigerian scientists to come up with a solution with a N36 million pledge.
Onu said Nigerians are creative and talented enough to develop homegrown solutions to major challenges confronting the country, Africa and the world, with the RNASwift test kit as an example.
“Today, the RNASwift extraction kit developed by Nigerian scientists has capacity at an accurate, sensitive and affordable cost to detect SARS-Cov2, the causative agent of COVID-19,” he said
“With the RNASwift test kit, we are going to test five million farmers, and the new test kit will reduce cost drastically.”
He also said other African countries stand to benefit from the test kits owing to its low cost.