The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said it has activated three additional laboratories in the country, bringing the total number of laboratories in Nigeria to 23.
Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director-General of NCDC, told the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday in Abuja that it would help to increase the nation’s testing capacity as well as curb the spread of the pandemic.
Ihekweazu said the three additional laboratories were in the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Rivers State University Teaching Hospital Satellite Molecular Laboratory and University of Benin Teaching Hospital.
He said some states had more than one laboratory such as like Edo, Lagos and Kano.
NAN reports that the 20 laboratories include the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, FCT; Defence Reference Laboratory, FCT; Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos State; and Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory, Lagos State.
Others include Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State; Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Lagos State; Virology Laboratory of University College Hospital, Oyo State; and Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
Others are African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Osun State; National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom, Plateau State; Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano State; DNA Laboratory, Kaduna State; and University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Borno State.
Others included Centre for Advanced Medical Research and Training, Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto; Africa Centre of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology, ABU, Zaria, Kaduna State; Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Bayero University Kano, Kano State; 54gene Mobile Laboratory, Ogun State; 54gene Mobile Laboratory, Lagos State; 54gene Mobile Laboratory, Kano State; and Mobile laboratory, Delta State.
The D-G said the agency had come up with Polymerase Chain Reaction testing strategy to scale up COVID-19 virus testing.
Ihekweazu said: “At the moment, the COVID-19 tests that we report daily are coming from the PCR.
“They detect the genetic information of the virus, the RNA.
“That’s only possible if the virus is there and someone is actively infected.
“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.”
Ihekweazu said PCR gives a good indication of who is infected.
He noted that by scaling PCR testing to screen vast swab samples from within a population like Nigeria, the NCDC officials could get a clearer picture of the spread of a disease like COVID-19 within a population.
He said that it was worth noting that PCR tests could be very labour intensive and involve several stages and as such errors may occur between sampling and analysis.
“This is why the agency has focused on strengthening quality assurance in the laboratories,” he said.
According to Ihekweazu, COVID-19 pandemic has made the importance of reliable and accessible testing to screen for the virus increasingly obvious.
He said PCR testing had been upgraded from the initial testing procedures and with additional automation to reduce errors.
He said: “Remember as we take swabs from people, we are also faced with the challenge of other organisms floating around.
“We are essentially dealing with the situation to ensure the ‘right’ result.”