By Chioma Obinna
As part of efforts to contain and successfully manage COVID-19, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has validated the first phase of a scientific procedure to extract the RNA of coronavirus.
These extraction kits form part of the components of testing through real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR.
Speaking at the validation in Abuja, Director-General of NABDA, Professor Alex Akpa, explained that told that the success of the validation was important not only to Nigeria but Africa as a whole.
“The success of this validation shall enable us to massively produce test kits so that more people would be tested for COVID-19, not only in Nigeria but in Africa.
“The immediate aim is to produce reagents for real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR, and remember, recently the lack of reagents stalled work in Kano and molecular diagnosis could no longer take place,” Akpa said.
Alpa said the absence of the same reagent equally stalled COVID-19 diagnosis in Lagos for many days.
He explained that the project was designed to enable not only Nigeria but other African countries.
Akpa added that that the project was a Pan-African project in partnership with Ethiopia, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the University of Sheffield, U.K., among others with funding to come from African Development Bank.
On his part, Chief Molecular Bioengineer, National Reference Laboratory of NCDC, Dr. Ndodo Nnaemeka, said the project was designed to solve the problem of RNA extraction kit, which had become a global issue.
Nnaemeka noted that there have been serious concerns for the need to have more extraction kits in-country adding that there was a growing demand for extraction kits globally.
“The western world prioritises their own interest first by making sure that they meet their local needs before exporting to other countries, so there was really need for it,” Nnaemeka noted.
He said the first phase of the evaluation results he carried out with the NABDA scientific team was also successful.
He said: “The kits compete favourably well with other international kits we are using. In fact, it scored highly in purity and in quantity of extraction and we are thinking of scaling production.”
He clarified that to be able to conduct tests, the viral information which comes as the RNA has to first be extracted and without this extraction, no test can be conducted.
He noted that “what will tell you that the virus is there is contained in the RNA, so RNA is required for you to be able to detect COVID-19. As scientists, we will soon carry out the second phase of the evaluation which would involve real sample of COVID-19.”
Also, Dr. Rose Gidado, a scientist at NABDA and Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), said the validation of RNAswift Kit for COVID-19 was developed by Dr Alison Nwokeoji, a Nigerian scientist at the University of Sheffield, U.K.
The evaluation and validation of the RNAswift Kit for COVID-19 were carried out in the immunology laboratory of the NABDA.