Makerere, Uganda Bankers Association Launch Local COVID-19 Test Kits

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Makerere University’s Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, College of Health Sciences and Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) has launched the Makerere University home grown COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits.

The COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits developed domestically aim to address challenges related to affordability using imported items, promote research and innovation in the medical field and Makerere University in general.

This project was spearheaded by Dr. Misaki Wayengera, Director at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University.

These efforts are directed towards enhancing the fight against the spread of the Corona Virus not only at Makerere University but also in the entire country.

“Makerere University has developed an affordable (costing less than $1 or sh3,600), easy to use rapid point of care test platform for COVID-19 suited for use within remote equatorial African settings. This will enable rapid testing for Coronavirus and considerably lower the cost of testing currently standing at USD 65, which is prohibitive for developing countries like Uganda,” Wayengera said.

“This could not have been achieved without the financial support of Partners and Institutions such as Supervised Financial Institutions under their umbrella body UBA, Deposit Protection Fund of Uganda, and Government of the Republic of Uganda, the French Embassy in Uganda and Uganda’s Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation,”he added.

He explained that in the drive to raise funds towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and in response to Government’s call for support to join hands, UBA and the Deposit Protection Fund contributed sh200 million to the project which was in advanced stages in 2020.

UBA executive director Wilbrod Owor said: “The pandemic has had diverse effects on the economy and one of the most affected sectors are education, tourism & hospitality, real estate which ultimately have affected the banking sector by way of increase in Non-Performing Loans. In addition to the loan restructures that member banks have offered, as part of support to business community, we are also happy to have invested to support testing.”

How it works

The Test Kit involves using a swab-tube dipstick to do an antigen test by use of a nasal sample. With this quick test, once the nasopharyngeal sample is obtained, it is placed back into its tube containing reagents that detect the virus surface protein.

The testing kits which cost less than $1 or sh3,600 requires minimal expertise. It can produce the results in between two to five minutes.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice Chancellor of Makerere University noted that, the University has through College of Health Sciences built extensive expertise, experience and eco-systems across the academia and partnerships for Research and Development of pathogen diagnostic.

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“This kit will carry out antibody tests. It will also be used in early detection of COVID-19 cases, used in screening of travelers for COVID-19, detection of symptoms as well as aid in sero-prevalennce studies to determine previous exposure to COVID-19. Makerere University is hopeful that this will enable Uganda and other African countries to cost-effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nawangwe said.

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