COVID-19: Nigerian virologist calls for rapid test kits in Nigeria

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A renowned Nigerian virologist and vaccinologist, Dr Simon Agwale, yesterday, called on the federal government to expedite action in introducing rapid test kits to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.

Agwale, who is the chief executive of Innovative Biotech, Keffi, Nasarawa State, and Innovative Biotech, USA, said the kits remained the fastest way in tracking fresh infections.

He said, “The Rapid Test Kits differentiate between recent infections. This is because any fresh infection would make the body generate antibodies, which can easily be tracked. The IgM/IgG, both positive, suggest recent exposure, while IgG positive suggests previous infection, or latent infection, with current infections to be confirmed by Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase (RTPCR) or viral gene sequencing.”

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Agwale, a one-time researcher at the University of Jos, and the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), as well as some institutions in Germany, UK, China and the US, commended the molecular diagnostic approach which is used in conducting coronavirus tests in Nigeria. He, however, said the approach “is not proactive enough to contain the widespread of the virus”.

He said, “With (COVID-19) IgM/IgG Rapid Test Kits, the test will become easy. Coronaviruses belong to a large family of zoonotic viruses. These viruses can be transmitted from animals to humans. There are many such, known to be circulating in different animal populations that have not yet infected humans. (COVID-19) is the most recent to make the jump to human infection. The signs include the common cold and respiratory symptoms, such as dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death.”

Speaking on the current evacuation of some foreigners by their countries for fear of a possible escalation of the pandemic, Dr Agwale said they were being proactive because of the four testing centres operational in Nigeria are too few to cater for over 200 million Nigerian residents.

He said, “What might have informed the actions of these countries is a possible inaccuracy of the number of Nigerians exposed to the virus, and the tendency of those exposed not self-isolating themselves. I must, however, commend some high-placed Nigerians, who have come out to state their status. It removes the stigma; after all, it is treatable.”

Dr Agwale insisted that the permanent solution to the emerging global health challenges are for Nigeria to invest in local vaccine production, which would also create employment for Nigerians.

It would be recalled that both Israel and the US are evacuating their nationals in Nigeria for fear of a possible rapid spread of (COVID-19) in the country.

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