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Uganda launches domestic Covid-19 test kit


Developers say the antibody test is far cheaper than imports

Uganda’s Makerere University has developed an antibody-based test for the novel coronavirus that it says is cheaper and better suited to local conditions than imported tests. 

The kit was launched on 17 March. Misaki Wayengera, who led its development, said the kits will cost the country US$1 per test, compared to US$65 for current alternatives.

“[The kits are] suited for use within remote equatorial African settings. This will enable rapid testing for coronavirus and considerably lower the cost … which is prohibitive for developing countries like Uganda,” said Wayengera, in a statement.

Seroprevalence tests, like the Makerere one, tests for the presence of antibodies against SARS-Cov-2 which indicate recent or past infection, not current infection. The tests will be “used for surveillance in high risk transmission settings such as schools and prisons”, said Jane Ruth Acheng, Uganda’s health minister, on Twitter on 17 March.

The tests have a five-minute turnaround and require minimal training to use. Funding for the project came from the governments of Uganda and France.