The “COVID-19: Community Access Diagnostics Laboratory Networks” project implemented by ICGEB, in partnership with New England Biolabs® (NEB®) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, builds on the results of a pilot action, which took place between September 2020 and March 2021.
During the pilot, four African reference laboratories in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria were brought together to take part in a retrospective and prospective clinical diagnostic study aimed at assessing the efficacy of a novel diagnostic Reverse Transcription Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP) test, produced and donated by NEB®, in detecting SARS-CoV-2 genome in nasopharyngeal swabs by comparing it to the standard RT-qPCR protocol. The study demonstrated that RT-LAMP is a quick and reliable assay that can be deployed in resource-limited settings and during emergencies, without compromising the quality of output. Such conclusions, shared by the newly established laboratory network, led to the decision to further expand the programme.
The current project broadens the scope of the pilot phase by increasing the number of Partner African Countries, thus creating a network of community and reference laboratories in Africa working to increase their diagnostic and surveillance capacity for SARS-CoV-2. This will be done primarily by the transfer of scientific knowledge and expertise and through the testing of innovative technologies suitable to rural and remote areas with a paucity of highly equipped facilities and infrastructures. Overall, the project aims at increasing access to, and knowledge of, high-quality and cost-effective SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tools relevant to local needs.
- Introducing and testing new COVID-19 diagnostic and surveillance technologies
- Increasing diagnostic and surveillance capacities in the African partner countries
- Building a network of community and reference laboratories in Africa