The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has recommended the use of RDTs rapid antigen tests to boost the nation’s COVID-19 testing capacity.
Consequently, the centre has unveiled a new guideline for state governments, public and private institutions on use of approved Antigen (Ag)-based Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) for the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had, last September, announced the Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of two Ag RDTs, manufactured by SD Biosensor and Abbott for COVID-19 testing.
Accordingly, the disease centre, in collaboration with other stakeholders, carried out a national validation of the RDTs during the screening at National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps, which showed that the RDTs met minimal standards for sensitivity and specificity of COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
NCDC’s Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, in a statement Monday in Abuja, disclosed that as more Ag RDTs gain EUA from WHO, the centre would consider their use in Nigeria.
He prescribed the use of the kits primarily in congregate settings, including schools and hospitals, for the testing of patients with symptoms of the sickness.
Chikwe observed that while RDTs provide a faster turnaround time compared to the molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, there were limitations with this test.
The DG added: “The Ag-RDTs provide significant advantages over other available testing methods, especially in terms of shorter turnaround times and reduced costs.”
He said the correct use of Ag-RDTs would also enable the Federal Government to increase the pace of testing, tracing and provide care for patients.
“This new guidance published by NCDC, is to guide the use of RDTs in Nigeria. We are recommending its use, primarily in congregate settings. These include settings such as schools, hospitals for the testing of patients with symptoms of COVID-19 presenting in-hospital triage areas and periodic testing of healthcare workers, as well as prisons etc.
“While RDTs provide a faster turnaround time compared to the molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, there are limitations with this test,” he added.
For example, the currently available Ag-RDTs have a lower sensitivity compared to PCR tests. The test can therefore present false negative results in people who have been infected with the virus.
This is why the molecular PCR method remains the gold standard for testing. An algorithm has been included in the guidance to ensure that cases such as this are not missed,” he submitted.
Chikwe explained that the existing Ag-RDTs were portable and easy to administer.
He, however, pointed out that infection prevention and control measures must be adhered to by health workers administering the test.
Chikwe advised Nigerians to practice regular hand washing, avoid mass gatherings, wear face masks properly and ensure physical distancing at all times.
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