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Africa CDC urges countries to adopt antigen tests for COVID-19

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Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging countries to adopt antigen testing for COVID-19, owing to the high prices for the widely used Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the Deputy Director of the Africa CDC said that the new rapid diagnostic test that quickly detects fragments of proteins found on or within the virus by testing samples collected from the nasal cavity using swabs brings down the cost of the test from the highs of USD 65 (238,000 Shillings) to USD 100 (367,000 Shillings) in some places to lows of USD 10 (36,000 Shillings) to USD 15 (55,000 Shillings).

The issue of testing costs have recently caused an uproar when the government declared that various categories of people including truck drivers, travellers and those that voluntarily seek a test will start paying for themselves capping the price of each test at 240,500 Shillings. Ogwell says that governments have no control over the high PCR test prices. 

However, while the Africa CDC recommends the antigen test, In Uganda, rapid diagnostic tests have only been permitted to be used in research. 

Dr Susan Nabadda Ndidde, the Executive Director of the National Public Health Laboratory which is among the labs in the country testing the highest bulk of samples says results of an antigen test cannot be based on to give a conclusive result that’s why the test is exclusively being used in surveys and research here. 

She said already they have received reports of some of the private labs accredited for COVID-19 are using the rapid diagnostic test without authorization and that they plan to clamp them down when an on-going investigation is concluded. For her, the only recognized test in the country that is approved by the World Health Organization is PCR.

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