By Sola Ogundipe
New guidance for State Governments, public and private institutions, on the use of approved Antigen (Ag), based Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for COVID-19 has been published by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
In a statement, the Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu said the rapid antigen kits were being introduced to help in the campaign against COVID-19 in the country.
“The NCDC is introducing the use of these rapid antigen tests, to contribute to Nigeria’s overall COVID-19 testing capacity. The Ag-RDTs provide significant advantages over other available testing methods, especially in terms of shorter turnaround times and reduced costs.
“The correct use of Ag-RDTs will also enable the Government of Nigeria to increase the pace of testing, tracing, and providing care for people with COVID-19,” Ihekweazu stated.
He recalled that in September 2020, the World Health Organisation, WHO, announced the Emergency Use Authorisation of two Ag RDTs, manufactured by SD Biosensor and Abbott for COVID-19 testing. “Following this, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in collaboration with other stakeholders carried out a national validation of these RDTs.
The validation which was carried out during the screening held at National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps, showed that the RDTs meet the minimal standards for sensitivity and specificity of COVID 19 diagnostic tests. As more Ag RDTs gain EUA from WHO, we will consider their use in Nigeria.
“This new guidance published by NCDC is to guide the use of RDTs in Nigeria. We are recommending its use, primarily in congregate settings. These include settings such as schools, hospitals for the testing of patients with symptoms of COVID-19 presenting in-hospital triage areas and periodic testing of health care workers, as well as prisons, etc.
According to Ihekweazu: “While RDTs provide a faster turnaround time compared to the molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, there are limitations with this test.
“For example, the currently available Ag-RDTs have a lower sensitivity compared to PCR tests. The test can therefore present false-negative results in people who have been infected with the virus.
“This is why the molecular PCR method remains the gold standard for testing. An algorithm has been included in the guidance to ensure that cases such as this are not missed.”
According to Ihekweazu, the Ag-RDTs developed by Abbott and SD Biosensor are highly portable and easy to administer.
“However, infection prevention and control measures must be adhered to by trained health workers administering the test.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCDC has continued to lead Nigeria’s public health response activities. As part of this, the agency has been leading the expansion of testing capacity across the country, with 112 public and private testing labs n activated across all states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Of the 112 laboratories, 74 of these are public health laboratories and provide testing free of charge to the general public.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has cautioned against the purchase and use of COVID-19 vaccines in the country without its approval.
The Director-General of the Agency, Prof Mojisola Christianah Adeyeye, who disclosed this during a virtual press conference noted: “COVID-19 vaccines are new, and the side effects or adverse events must be well monitored, therefore, if NAFDAC does not approve, the public should not use.”
Warning of reports of the existence of fake vaccines, she said none of the vaccines have been approved by NAFDAC. “Fake vaccines can cause Covid-like illnesses or other serious diseases that could kill,” she warned.