Pathcare to test locally for corona

The private pathology laboratory Pathcare Namibia is verifying the accuracy of the test kits it has received to make sure they meet international standards.

28 April 2020 | Health



If everything goes according to plan, Pathcare Namibia will start performing coronavirus tests in Windhoek this week.

Dr Frans Colesky of Pathcare said the company already had the necessary equipment, which is also used for other tests. The challenge was to obtain the necessary test kits or reagents – a pre-packaged cocktail of chemicals used to confirm the presence of the virus in tissue samples.

He said they received the first batch of the reagents, which are in high demand worldwide, and are verifying their accuracy.

As a laboratory accredited with the International Standards Organisation, Pathcare must comply with ISO standards, he said.

48 hours

The Windhoek laboratory will be able to do 200 tests per day, Colesky said, and depending on demand, the results will be available within a day or two. Pathcare's other laboratories in Namibia have the necessary equipment but are still awaiting test kits.

Colesky said countries with large numbers of infected people, such as the United States, are first in line for the coveted test kits. Less seriously affected countries such as Namibia have to wait their turn.

The cost

The state-owned Namibian Institute of Pathology (NIP) will test state patients and members of the public medical aid fund Psemas free of charge. Private medical aid schemes will cover the cost of coronavirus testing for their members, Colesky said.

Pathcare will offer the tests at cost price, which is around N$850.

He pointed out that Pathcare has not received any state subsidy or donations from other entities to offer this service and has to buy the test kits on the international market.

Rapid development

The reason for the slow start to mass testing is because RNA tests for the new virus first had to be developed before mass production could start.

The process is complicated by the fact that the test has to work on different brands and models of laboratory equipment, Colesky explained.

These factors, coupled with the high demand for test kits, have limited their availability.

The RNA test determines the presence of the coronavirus in the patient's body and is the better option for diagnostic purposes.

Another type of test, called an antibody test, is cheaper and faster but it can only show whether the patient has been infected before.

That makes it less suitable at this early stage of the pandemic, Colesky explained.

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