National lab service optimistic about coronavirus testing efforts
“The service is pursuing various sources of supplies to obtain polymerase chain reaction-based test kits, and has a commitment from suppliers that South Africa will be a priority,” chief executive Dr Kamy Chetty said.
It currently has six laboratories performing Covid-19-related tests, with the number set to increase to nine, as well as 18 state-of-the-art Cobas 6800 and 8800 machines that should dramatically improve testing and turnaround volumes.
The service’s GeneXpert analysers are set to be available in all provinces next month.
The test kits for the GeneXpert were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week, Chetty added, and were due to arrive soon.
“The advantage, according to the supplier, is that tests can be processed in 45 minutes, and the smaller machines can be placed in mobile vehicles which makes them ideal for community testing,” Chetty said.
“It’s a pity that this new test kit was not available sooner as it would have made a huge difference to how testing gets done.”
The six laboratories currently conducting tests are the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Gauteng); Groote Schuur and Tygerberg hospitals; Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal; and Universitas Hospital in the Free State.
Tshwane Academic Hospital (Gauteng), Port Elizabeth Provincial and Nelson Mandela Academic Hospitals (East Cape) will start testing soon.
Also, the service has deployed six mobile laboratories to collect samples for testing.
One will be deployed in the Western Cape, two in the Free State, two in Gauteng, and one in KwaZulu-Natal, while 20 more vehicles have been procured and are scheduled to be deployed.
Currently, the national service has the capacity to process 5 000 samples in 24 hours.
This number is set to increase to 15 000 in 24 hours, Chetty said, and by the end of next month as many as 36 000 tests would be processed in a day.