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Nust to manufacture Covid-19 testing kits

by Staff reporter
05 Aug 2021 at 06:14hrs | Views
THE National University of Science and Technology (Nust) has procured a US$87 000 Covid-19 reagents manufacturing machine and it is expected to be delivered in the next two months.

The new machine will enable the country to detect various Covid-19 variants. Government in May released funds to Nust to buy the reagents manufacturing machine. The machine will enable the university to make Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kits and the cost of Covid-19 testing will be reduced by over 60 percent.

The conclusive test costs about US$60 and may go as low as US$20 once the machine becomes operational. Besides making Covid-19 testing kits, the machine can make reagents to test for many other diseases that include HIV. The development will save the country from importing the conclusive diagnostic test kit that determines if one is infected by analysing a sample for genetic material from the virus.

Nust will produce about 50 000 PCR kits weekly while the country is currently conducting about 21 000 Covid-19 tests weekly.

In an interview yesterday, Nust's Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) lab assistant Ms Anita Dube confirmed the procurement of the manufacturing machine from Denmark.

"The funds we received from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development have been used to purchase the oligomaker or DNA synthesizer machine.

"We are in communication with the manufacturers and they have promised that it should be delivered in two months period. The machine is going to be used to synthesize primus that are used in Covid-19 testing and other molecular biology services. But most importantly for the PCR kits used in Covid-19 testing," said Ms Dube.

The machine will be used for HIV testing and HIV viral load testing and detecting variations in viruses.

Meanwhile, Ms Dube said AGTC has resumed DNA testing after operations had been down since March following breakdown of machinery.

"We resumed our operation last Thursday after our machine was serviced. We had several inquiries from March until now. We have managed to clear the backlog that we had over the weekend and people have started collecting their results," he said.

The Nust DNA lab has been involved in several national projects including identification of bodies that would have been burnt beyond recognition in accidents. Also, couples disputing paternity of the children use the DNA lab to confirm who a child's father is.

AGCT technicians in the past revealed that sometimes they are approached by cheating spouses intending to bribe officials to manipulate their children's paternity results to save their marriages.

Source - chronicle

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