The Pasteur Institute in Senegal are working to develop a $1 Coronavirus test kit


Amidst recent developments, the work being undertaken by the Senegalese puts the country at the cutting edge of a major scientific and medical breakthrough.

The recent news regarding the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine has reaffirmed the extent to which the global medical community have focused their efforts on dealing with the covid-19 pandemic. This is in many ways natural. The global emergency has required a global response to steer the world through a difficult year. This has seen a number of innovative leaps to not only find a vaccine but improve the ability to quickly detect the virus via testing procedures.

Among the most significant attempts at this (as highlighted by CNN) appears to be taking shape in Dakar, Senegal at a biomedical research centre named the Pasteur Institute. Having been covered by the New York Times, AlJazeera and NewScientist, the work of the Pasteur Institute has been ongoing since at least March.

When speaking with CNN, Amadou Sall, the director of the Institute, offered further insight into their objectives which includes the development of a testing kit which the centre hopes will cost as little as $1 to purchase. On the nature of the proposed testing kit itself, he said:

“This is a very simple technology, like a pregnancy test that you can use everywhere at the community level, which is important for Africa.”

The test kit would be able to be used from home and the New York Times have already reported the thoughts of Oyewale Tomori, a biologist leading a Nigerian committee on Covid-19. He refers to the potential of a $1 antigen test kit as being a 'game changer'.

Crucially, beyond being available to use at home, the test kit would not require electricity or any laboratory analysis, widening the extent to which it could be of use for those in Senegal, the rest of the continent and the world. This is especially key, as it would offer part of a solution to making sure that individuals in rural parts of the continent could also be more easily tested. This will naturally be a test of many nations' infrastructure and their capacity to make these testing kits available across all regions, but it would represent a significant step forward regardless.

CNN further expand on the makeup of the test stating:

[It] consists of a simple test strip housed in a plastic unit and uses a small blood sample collected by pricking a finger, much like tools used to test insulin. The blood is tested for coronavirus-related antibodies, and the result is shown on the test strip.

The work of the Institute has been ongoing for many months and given time, their research is sure to transition from the laboratory to the wider public. When this does happen, Senegal, Africa and quite possibly the rest of the world will be better placed to continue in the large scale efforts to detect, halt, and manage the spread of the virus.

Mayowa Ayodele


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