For the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak began, Africa may be poised to reshape rapid testing for the virus on the continent.
The Pasteur Institute, a biomedical research center based in Senegal’s capital city of Dakar, says it is close to producing an affordable, handheld Covid-19 diagnostic test kit that can give results in a matter of minutes.
The institute is running a new venture called DiaTropix, which has been working in partnership with five research organizations since March, including Mologic in the UK, to create the test kit.
Amadou Sall, director of the Pasteur Institute and DiaTropix, told CNN that the biomedical center hopes the kit will cost as little as $1 to purchase.
According to Mologic, this rapid test kit does not require electricity or need laboratory analysis.
Instead, it consists of a simple test strip housed in a plastic unit and uses a small blood sample collected by pricking a finger, much like tools used to test insulin. The blood is tested for coronavirus-related antibodies, and the result is shown on the test strip.
A prototype of the kit was tested in June after raising funds from donors such as UK non-profit Wellcome Trust and the UK government, Sall said. Once regulatory checks are complete, the plan is to start manufacturing and distributing the kits.
The Covid-19 rapid test kits will first be available on the continent through governments and health organizations like the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Sall said.
“Ideally, we’re working on how we can make (the kits) available to the more general public. But right now, the focus is on public health and then we are going to move into self-testing,” he added.
Sall said the goal is to issue 10 to 15 million kits by February 2021.