Prof. Babatunde Salako, Director-General of NIMR (Middle, in white) During the Launch of First SARS-CoV-2 Isothemal Molecular Assay (SIMA) Photo: Geeky.Com.Ng

COVID-19: Research Institute unveils new molecular testing kit in Nigeria

*Whereas no effective vaccine has been developed till date, case detection remains the surest way of controlling the pandemic ─Prof. Babatunde Salako, Director-General of NIMR

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

In taking the much talked about local content initiative to the next level in the healthcare sector of the economy, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) has launched the first SARS-CoV-2 Isothemal Molecular Assay (SIMA) kit to boost novel COVID-19 testing capacity in the country.

Prof. Babatunde Salako, Director-General of NIMR, while unveiling the locally produced product said that the testing kit was developed to ease the challenges posed by the current method that requires heavy laboratory and expensive equipment to function, says agency report.

Salako described SIMA testing kit as a fast and sensitive point of carebtest for COVID-19, infection using molecular technique that is reliable.

The NIMR Director-General of NIMR stated: “As a foremost research institute in Nigeria with a mandate to conduct research into diseases of public health importance like COVID-19 pandemic which at present is a difficult management challenge for scientists.

“While no effective vaccine has been developed till date, case detection remains the surest way of controlling the pandemic.”

He also said that “seeing that molecular laboratories remain limited in number and remote areas are at disadvantaged in getting tested and limited testing centres.

“Our researchers once again swung into action to develop a point of care molecular test for COVID-19 to ease the challenges of getting a molecular laboratory which requires huge fund.

“The Isothemal used for our point of care testing cost 9500 dollars which is cheaper than the regular real time PCR equipment which cost about 100,000 Dollars.

“This test reagent can be produced in country with 80 per cent to 90 per cent locally sourced material.”

Salako disclosed that Dr. Chika Onwuamah, a Senior Research Scientist, led a NIMR research team that developed a molecular test for Coronavirus that gives test result in less than 40 minutes.

He also thanked Fate Foundation, for supporting the research with N20million through its Fate Philanthropy Coalition for COVID-19 Support.

“We are very grateful for the support given to the institute to develop the assay which is not only first of its kind in the country but also in Africa.

“The objective of the grant was to develop a fast multiplex isothermal assay for SARS-CoV-2 while we also designed and evaluated primers and probes for multiplex.

“Work is currently ongoing on a simple release reagent to simplify the RNA extraction step and the assay development procedure involves both bioinformatic analysis designing the primers and probes.

“To date we have a working assay guaranteed to test 100 copies/ml of SARs-CoV-2 RNA, as we continue to improve on the detection limit.”

Dr. Onwuamah, who led the research work, remarked that SIMA is far cheaper and faster, compared to PCR which required a lot of power and goes through different temperature.

He said: “The difference between the PCR used in Molecular lab and this is that PCR goes through different circle of temperature which requires more a lot of power for heating and cooling.

“SIMA works at one temperature and that is why it is called isothermal which makes it far cheaper and faster.”

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