Nqobile Tshili, columnist
The GOVERNMENT has released approximately $ 87,000 to the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) for the purchase of a Covid-19 reagent manufacturing machine.
The machine will allow the university to make polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kits and the cost of Covid-19 tests will be reduced by more than 60%.
Currently, the successful test costs around US $ 60 and can go as low as US $ 20 once the machine is up and running.
In addition to making Covid-19 test kits, the machine can make reagents to test for many other diseases including HIV.
The development will prevent the country from importing the conclusive diagnostic test kit that determines whether one is infected by analyzing a sample for the virus’s genetic material.
The new machine will also allow the country to detect various variants of Covid-19.
Nust will produce around 50,000 PCR kits per week while the country currently performs around 15,000 Covid-19s per week.
Professor Amon Murwira, Minister of Higher Education and Higher Education, Innovation, Science and Technology, said the government has released the funds as it realizes the vital role played by Nust in the fight against Covid-19.
âIt’s our responsibility to support the innovation center and one of the problems that Nust does is genetics. You know Nust was the first in Bulawayo to convert the TB labs at Mpilo Central Hospital for Covid-19 testing. We go a step further to try to fabricate some of the test materials. We decided to fund them to do it. It’s a lot of
He said the money would allow Nust to import the machine and install it.
Professor Murwira said the purchase and installation of the machine was in the hands of Nust.
Nust’s Applied Genetic Testing Center director Zephaniah Dhlamini said the machine will be delivered to the country in October.
He said that due to the pressure from Covid-19, the maker of the PCR manufacturing machine is fighting to clear a backlog. âThey (the government) gave us â¬ 71,000 in equivalent US dollar terms (US $ 86,532.60). The money is intended to buy a DNA synthesizer also known as an oligomaker.
âIt’s a machine that makes primers that are the main reagents in PCR tests. DNA synthesizers are used to synthesize what we call short oligos and these are the key reagents in PCR reactions or tests, âhe said.
âWe will use this machine to synthesize primers to test for Covid-19 and also detect different variants in Covid-19 samples. We can easily match the variant with primers. Basically we would now be making PCR test reagents. “
Mr Dhlamini added, âSo AGTC goes further rather than just testing, we say make reagents. This machine is used, among other things, for the production of PCR primers. We hope that when we start manufacturing these reagents, Covid-19 testing will be reduced to around US $ 20-25. “
Right now, it costs around US $ 60 for individuals to perform Covid-19 PCR testing.
He said the oligomaker will be the country’s first DNA synthesizer.
“He does PCR primers, they can be used in so many things, we can do PCR primus for HIV testing and HIV viral load testing. Even in forensics, we can now make forensic PCR kits. -Legal to detect variations in wild animals like elephants etc. The applications are endless, âhe said – @nqotshili.