Ghana will soon introduce COVID-19 antigen test to improve and enhance testing for coronavirus.
Professor William Ampofo, Head of Virology Department, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) told the Ghana News agency in Accra that this was part of a national plan to make testing easily accessible throughout the country.
Presently, COVID-19 laboratories conduct Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test only to manage the patients, while antigen screening and testing is done at the airport only.
Prof Ampofo said the government intended to have complimentary antigen testing together with PCR testing to enhance the COVID-19 testing process.
He said Ghana had received over 75,000 antigen test kits from the African Medical Supply platform from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which was being validated by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA).
The Virologist explained that antigen testing was able to read and detect the COVID-19 virus and whole antigen particle quite fast.
“Antigen test also known as rapid test is faster and cheaper than the PCR, the PCR can take about three hours to detect a virus which the antigen test does in 15 minutes” he said.
He said the FDA had reviewed and registered about four devices for antigen test.
Professor Amfopo said when rolled out, antigen testing would be done under the educational programme where health facilities had been marked to schools, so that suspected cases could be quickly screened and tested for timely interventions.
“One thing we know about antigen and PCR testing is that, when you are infectious and producing the virus particle, the antigen is positive so at that time antigen test complements that PCR test,” he noted.
Antigen test also referred to as a rapid test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus.
It can be done in a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Turnaround time for results is usually very quick and in some cases, results can be reported within 15 minutes.
PCR test on the other hand detects genetic materials that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms.
The test can be done in a clinic, hospital, or even in your car. Turnaround time is longer, generally in the 2-3 day range but results can be in as little as 24 hours. When demand is high, results can take a week or longer.