Awka – Contipharma, a pharmaceutical company specializing in the development and marketing of targeted medical solutions, on Wednesday announced that it is making a saliva-based PCR test available across the entire continent of Africa.
The test, which was developed by the University of Liège (ULiège) in Belgium and is CE marked, can detect all known variants of SARS-CoV-2, including Omicron.
It is the only saliva-based PCR test available in Africa and one of just a handful of its kind available worldwide.
Recent findings from the World Health Organization (WHO), states that only 14.2% of COVID-19 infections in Africa are currently being detected.
That equates to just one in seven people with the virus.
According to Bernard Delhez, the Chief Executive Officer, CEO of Contipharma, Saliva-based testing could provide a solution, since it has similar detection rates to nasopharyngeal testing but offers a number of logistical advantages.
These tests, he said, can also detect infections over a longer period than their nasopharyngeal counterparts.
He explained that the Contipharma and ULiège first teamed up at the start of 2021, yielding to the development of the self-collection saliva testing kit by the COVID-19 laboratory at ULiège which offers two key advantages.
“First, people can collect the sample themselves, meaning no medical personnel are required; and second, the virus in the sample is inactivated immediately, which saves both time and money as this step no longer needs to be completed by a laboratory.
“It has now been shown by a number of research groups that saliva testing is as effective, if not more so, than nasopharyngeal testing in detecting SARS-CoV-2.
“There is even evidence to suggest that the epidemic can be better managed if saliva rather than nasopharyngeal testing is used,” he noted.
Delhez explained that to accurately detect different variants, every step needs to be on point, including taking the sample, inactivating the virus, extracting the viral genetic material and performing the PCR method.
He said the inactivation and extraction processes developed by ULiège, which have proven highly effective in extracting very high-quality RNA, has been approved for use and widely implemented as part of the national testing program in Belgium.
He said; “The process, which targets multiple rather than singular genes, also uses PCR reagents which include primers that have been specifically selected to identify and detect all known variants of SARS-CoV-2.
“This multiplex saliva-based PCR testing method detects all known variants, including Omicron, which is currently spreading throughout Africa.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Contipharma has delivered a range of medical supplies, including rapid blood and antigen tests.
“This PCR saliva-based test is the perfect addition to our portfolio and exactly in line with our company’s vision.”
The Contipharma CEO said the company has already signed its first contracts to supply the tests to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Sudan, adding that although the company is currently concentrating its efforts on the market launch in Africa, it also plans to market the tests in other world regions in the near future.
According to him, looking beyond SARS-CoV-2, Contipharma and ULiège are also investigating the potential applications of saliva-based testing in the detection of other diseases found primarily on the African continent.
“We have launched research projects looking into three different conditions; details remain confidential at this stage,” he said.