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NCDC validates viral RNA extraction as Nigeria records breakthrough in COVID-19 research

The country has blazed a trail in Africa with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) successfully validating the first phase of the viral Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) extraction which should enable local production of cheap testing kits for coronavirus.

This validation took place on Thursday, May 21, in the laboratory of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in collaboration with the NCDC.

The Director-General of NABDA, Prof. Alex Akpa, told the press after the exercise that the success of the validation was important not only to Nigeria but Africa as a whole.

“The success of this validation shall enable us to massively produce test kits so that more people would be tested for COVID-19, not only in Nigeria but in Africa.

“The immediate aim is to produce reagents for real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and remember, recently the lack of reagents stalled work in Kano and molecular diagnosis could no longer take place,’’ Akpa said.

He also recalled that the absence of the same reagent equally stalled COVID-19 diagnosis in Lagos for many days.

“This project is, therefore, designed to enable not only Nigeria but the whole of Africa to put the issue of shortage of reagents behind,’’ the director-general said.

He disclosed that the project was a Pan-African project whose partners include Ethiopia, NCDC and the University of Sheffield, U.K., among others with funding to come from the African Development Bank.

Dr Ndodo Nnaemeka, Chief Molecular Bioengineer, National Reference Laboratory of NCDC, said he was mandated by the NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, to “launch this wonderful project.’’

According to Nnaemeka, the project is designed to solve the problem of RNA extraction kit which had become a global issue.

He said there were serious concerns for the need to have more extraction kits in-country, and that there was growing demand worldwide for extraction kits.

“The kits compete favourably well with other international kits we are using, in fact, it scored highly in purity and in the quantity of extraction and we are thinking of scaling production,’Nnaemeka said.

He clarified that to be able to conduct the test, the viral information which comes as the RNA has to first be extracted and without this extraction, no test can be conducted.

He added that as scientists, they would soon carry out the second phase of the evaluation which would involve a real sample of COVID-19.

It was reported that the evaluation and validation of the RNAswift Test Kit for COVID-19 was carried out in the immunology laboratory of the NABDA in collaboration with NCDC.

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