Nigerian researchers develop cheaper and faster Covid-19 test
Nigerian scientists have developed a cheaper and faster Covid-19 test kit that will enable testing to be ramped up in Africa’s most population nation, which has faced kit shortages and chronic under-testing.
The new test, called the SARS-COV-2 Isothermal Molecular Assay (SIMA), is cheaper than other tests and can give results in less than 40 minutes, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) said.
“The test is something you can carry comfortably,” said Dr Chika Onwuamah, a biologist at NIMR who developed SIMA with funding from the Fate Foundation
The new rapid test kit which will cost an initial $25, cheaper than the $130 PCR testing method currently in use, will be made available throughout the country following approval by a regulatory body, according to Nigerian health minister, Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora.
Nigeria currently imports PCR test kits from China and has faced challenges in getting enough kits to test most of its population of 200 million.
The West African country took action after recording its first coronavirus case in March, shutting down borders and imposing masking and distancing rules but as time has passed, Covid-fatigue has set in and many have relaxed.
Nigeria eased movement restrictions following a four-month lockdown that froze the economy. International travel resumed in September although the UK and other high-burden countries remain barred.
Nigeria is not the first country to produce testing kits on the continent. In March, Senegal's scientists worked with a UK-based laboratory to create a diagnostic test for coronavirus that can produce test results within 10 minutes.
African countries are generally seeing lower positive cases because of swift action and a mix of reasons not yet clear to scientists but health experts fear countries like Nigeria may see a spike in coronavirus cases as they open back up.