COVID-19 tests at Kotoka "reliable and appropriate" – Noguchi

BY: Graphic.com.gh
Professor William Ampofo
Professor William Ampofo

The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) says its assessment of the COVID-19 testing process at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has established that it was highly reliable and appropriate.

It said the Antigen testing regime had a high specificity and sensitivity rate when it was double assessed using the PCR testing regime [polymerise chain reaction].

Polymerise Chain Reaction (PCR) and antibody testing are the dominant ways that global healthcare systems are testing citizens for COVID-19.

Both techniques have their caveats, and as the crisis unfolds researchers are looking into alternative ways to screen for the deadly disease.

What is PCR testing?

Majority of the current COVID-19 tests globally are using PCR.

PCR tests are used to directly detect the presence of an antigen, rather than the presence of the body’s immune response, or antibodies.

By detecting viral RNA, which will be present in the body before antibodies form or symptoms of the disease are present, the tests can tell whether or not someone has the virus very early on.

PCR according to experts gives a good indication of who is infected for them to be isolated and get in contact with people they’ve been in touch with so they can be quarantined too, just in case.

Noguchi's clarification

Speaking at a national COVID-19 briefing in Accra on Thursday [September 3, 2020], the Head of Virology at the NMIMR, Professor William Ampofo, said the testing process at the airport had a specificity rate of 100 and a sensitivity rate of above 90, reports Graphic Online's Doreen Andoh on the health desk.

He said although it was not Rapid Diagnostic Testing, its turnaround time was faster than the PCR and that was why it was adopted.

He said it has high accuracy characteristics coupled with the fact that it was being used to validate PCR negative results of all arriving passengers.

This, Prof Ampofo said was to help curtail the importation of the virus into Ghana.

Prof Ampofo’s clarification followed a claim by a Senior Research Fellow at the NMIMR, Dr Kofi Bonney, that the COVID-19 testing device being used at the airport was not reliable.

Dr Bonney in a radio interview with Accra-based Joy FM on Tuesday [September 2, 2020] claimed that about half of the test to be conducted at the airport might be inaccurate because the test being conducted was not a PCR test but an antigen test which was less sensitive.

But a statement released Tuesday and signed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Delese Mimi Darko, said Dr Bonney’s claims were “inaccurate and unscientific.”

Related article: COVID-19 tests at KIA reliable – FDA

Airport reopening

The Kotoka International Airport (KIA) reopened for commercial and international passenger flights, five months after it closed its gates to the world as part of the restrictions on movement to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.

As part of measures for the reopening, and to control the spread of the Coronavirus all arriving passengers are to  be tested for the disease.