Molecular diagnosis for the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2: lessons learnt from the Ghana experience
Background: A novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 is currently causing a worldwide pandemic. The first cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection were recorded in Ghana on March 12, 2020. Since then, the country has been combatting countrywide community spread. This report describes how the Virology Department, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) is supporting the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to diagnose infections with this virus in Ghana.
Methods: The National Influenza Centre (NIC) in the Virology Department of the NMIMR, adopted real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) assays for the diagnosis of the SARS-CoV-2 in January 2020. Samples from suspected cases and contact tracing across Ghana were received and processed for SARS-CoV-2. Samples were ‘pooled’ to enable simultaneous batch testing of samples without reduced sensitivity.
Outcomes: From February 3 to August 21, the NMIMR processed 283 946 (10%) samples. Highest number of cases were reported in June when the GHS embarked on targeted contact tracing which led to an increase in number of samples processed daily, peaking at over 7,000 samples daily. There were several issues to overcome including rapid consumption of reagents and consumables. Testing however continued successfully due to revised procedures, additional equipment and improved pipeline of laboratory supplies. Test results are now provided within 24 to 48 hours of sample submission enabling more effective response and containment.
Conclusion: Following the identification of the first cases of SARS-CoV-2infection by the NMIMR, the Institute has trained other centres and supported the ramping up of molecular testing capacity in Ghana. This provides a blueprint to enable Ghana to mitigate further epidemics and pandemics.
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