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Be wary of unlicensed Covid-19 test kits, MoH tells Kenyans

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman has warned Kenyans that there are testing kits purporting to diagnose Covid-19 that have flooded the market.

Dr Aman on Wednesday said the standard test that the ministry uses for the diagnosis of Covid-19 is the real-time PCR test.

The PCR test, he says, is based on the detection of nucleic acid of the virus.

“We have noticed for instance that several testing kits that purport to diagnose Covid-19, have permeated our market. I think this is a matter that needs to be addressed and I want to say a few words about this,” Dr Aman said.

“First the standard test that the ministry uses as a diagnosis of Covid-19 is the real-time PCR test. Based on the detection of nucleic acid of the virus. The only test that definitely identifies the presence of coronavirus is those that turn out positive,” he added.

Immune response

Dr Aman says that tests have been developed since then that are not based on the nucleic acid but are based on detection of antibodies, which a person might have raised as an immune response towards exposure to the virus.

“These are the so-called antibody-based rapid diagnostic tests or RDTs. These RDTs are not sufficiently sensitive and specific to detect what they have been developed for,” Dr Aman explained.

The use of RDTs in the diagnosis of Covid-19 is still uncertain.

He says, the RDTs, however, do detect something and what they tell a person about the test when it turns positive, is that the individual was exposed to Covid-19.

“Therefore mounted on immune response resulting in antibodies within the person’s circulation and that is what is picked by the test. It does not tell you if the virus is present or active within that individual,” Dr Aman said.

“So these tests cannot be used for diagnosis for now. These tests have only been authorized for use for purposes of surveillance so that we get an idea of exposure to coronavirus.”

Kenya so far has convirmed 4,044 Covid-19 cases.