Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Members of the College of Nigerian Pathologists (CNP) have asked the federal and states governments to be extra careful in selecting locally-made test kits for the detection of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in samples.
The pathologists say they were aware of the advertisement for a few rapid serological test kits being touted for the diagnosis of COVID-19. They demanded to be involved in the process to ensure that the best, in terms of quality and efficiency, is selected.
CNP President Prof Phillip Olatunji, in a statement released in Abuja on Saturday, indicated that his colleagues were dissatisfied with the restriction of COVID-19 testing centres to a few locations across the country, even when many tertiary hospitals have the capacity for accurate testing for the coronavirus, and suggested that governments substantially decentralise testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.
He said that his colleagues had in their various capacities played leadership roles in case identification, case management and development of guidelines and protocol for infection prevention and control of COVID-19, but were unhappy that government never considered them in certain professional engagements.
“We do not see reasons why our tertiary healthcare centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests,” he said.
“It’s important and urgent that federal and state governments should deploy a portion of the COVID-19 budget to bridge whatever deficiencies exist in tertiary diagnostic laboratories. We are aware of the advertisement of a few rapid serological test kits being touted for the diagnosis of COVID-19, and some are already showing interest.
“In the first instance, many of these kits are anti-body based and may be inappropriate for an accurate diagnosis. Secondly, they are not validated, hence their sensitivity and specificity are unknown.
“We caution against using these test kits and recommend that an in-country evaluation be done for some that are said to be antigen-based. We are also of the view that anything that can positively contribute to the control of the pandemic should be embraced,” Olatunji stated.
He recommended that, at this critical moment, diagnostic utility should employ the NCDC recommended Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) for a more innovative and quicker diagnostic approach.
The CNP president thanked all members and other health workers who are on the frontlines in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and urged them not to relent until it is brought under complete control.