SA’s Covid-19 testing gets boost as huge stock of vital kit ...

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SA’s Covid-19 testing gets boost as huge stock of vital kit arrives

Traditional testing methods take two days. These newly imported cartridges reduce that to 45 minutes

Journalist
One of the GeneXpert machines the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is using to ramp up Covid-19 testing in SA.
TEST EXPERT One of the GeneXpert machines the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is using to ramp up Covid-19 testing in SA.
Image: cepheid.com

SA has been thrown a lifeline in its fight against Covid-19, with the arrival of critical test-kit supplies.

The National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) last week received 10,000 testing cartridges, with another 20,000 sets due to arrive soon.

The single-use cartridges are crucial for rapid-reaction tests conducted through a GeneXpert machine, which has been used for TB testing in the country since 2011.

SA has an estimated 2,000 GeneXpert machines, which were approved last month by the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for testing for Covid-19.

Traditional Covid-19 test results take up to 48 hours, but the GeneXpert machine reduces testing time to 45 minutes.

The machines, which will be fitted to mobile units, will be used to help test those living in rural and high-density informal areas.

The GeneXpert machine will help increase testing capacity for Covid-19. 

More than 178,400 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the country, with 93 Covid-19-related deaths and more than 4,900 infections recorded.

NHLS spokesperson Mzi Gcukumana confirmed the arrival of the 10,000 cartridges.

He said the NHLS was diversifying its supply sources for the cartridges, which would be used in 325 GeneXpert machines. These were distributed to 180 testing sites.

Gcukumana said because the cartridges were single-use, a constant supply was required.

“Standing orders have been placed to meet the testing requirements.”

He said in the past the kits were obtained from the US, but supplies were now being secured from countries including Germany, South Korea and China.

“The GeneXpert machine is one of several platforms being used in Covid-19 testing.”

Gcukumana said GeneXpert machines could test 16 samples at a time.

“We are maximising testing capacity across our platforms, with an additional platform now undergoing validation.”