KUMASI, Ghana (Reuters) - Ghana’s Incas Diagnostics expects the country’s regulator to approve its new COVID-19 antibody test by the end of July, saying its kits could help health authorities ease pandemic restrictions.
The company is also working with developers in Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Senegal, with backing from the World Health Organization (WHO), on a mobile app that would help trace people potentially at high-risk of getting the virus.
Ghana has reported one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Africa with nearly 10,000. The West African country has begun a phased easing of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus and plans to reopen schools and universities from June 15.
Joseph Bennie, head of the medical device department at Ghana’s Food and Drug Authority said nine companies were seeking its approval for rapid test kits and the process could take four to eight weeks.
Antibody tests using a pin-prick of blood are being used in many countries around the world as a rapid way of screening for the potential presence of COVID-19 though typically swab tests are needed to confirm if someone has the virus.
Incas Diagnostics founder and CEO Laud Anthony Basing told Reuters he expected its kits to cost about half as much as imported tests as they will be cutting out middlemen by producing them in Ghana.
Fed by information from users, its app will show areas in a community where there are vulnerable people who have not been tested for antibodies, people who have anti bodies and those who are at low, medium and high risk, Basing said.
“The app will basically work well with the rapid test kit because once classified as high risk you need to test the person,” he said, adding that there was also a need to mass-test communities.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has said the country will invest to ramp up local manufacturing of health equipment including gloves, masks and scrubs, while increasing tracing and testing for the virus. It has so far tested 233,734 people.
Basing said Incas’ kits, which were developed with funding from the French development agency and the Mastercard foundation, could retail for about $5 but will mostly be donated to help fight the pandemic.
He said the firm, which was founded in 2002 in Ghana’s second largest city Kumasi and makes pregnancy tests, has a capacity to produce some 50,000 COVID-19 kits a week.
Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by David Clarke