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Health CAS Aman: Avoid unapproved virus test kits

Thursday, June 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Health CAS Rashid Aman.

There is only one approved coronavirus-testing standard that should be used in the country, at least for the moment,  the government said yesterday.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman said the ministry diagnosis for coronavirus at the moment is real-time PCR test based on detection of nucleic acid of the virus.

He urged Kenyans to be cautious of other testing kits, particularly the Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) now in the market, even as the country recorded an all-time high single-day new infections of 184.

“We have noticed that several testing kits that purport to diagnose coronavirus have permeated our market and this is a matter that need to be addressed.

The standard test that the Ministry uses as a diagnosis for coronavirus is the real time PCR test based on detection of nucleic acid of the virus,” said Dr Aman, during the daily updates on the status of coronavirus in the country.

“Our position is that we still retain PCR as the gold standard for diagnosing coronavirus until such a time that WHO issues an advisory on the use of RDTS,” he advised.

Real time PCR test

He said the real-time PCR is the only test so far, that definitively identifies presence of coronavirus to those who test positive.

Much as several tests have been developed over time, Aman said they are not based on detection of nucleic acid but identification of either antibodies that a person may have raised as an immune response to exposure to the virus.

He said there are also antibodies based RDTs but a concern for government because they are not sufficiently sensitive and specific to detect what they have been developed for.

Aman said RDTs’ use for diagnosis of coronavirus is still uncertain but when they work, they tell that an individual was exposed to the disease and mounted an immune response resulting in antibodies within the person’s circulation.

“RDTs do not tell whether the virus is present and active within an individual so these tests cannot be used for diagnosis for now until further information is received in terms of how they perform and what it is they detect. Any of those test are not for coronavirus,” added the CAS.

He advised Kenyans to desist from the 15-minute RDT.

“That is not to say that these tests do not have value; they do because they can tell us the level of exposure.

They can be used for purposes of surveillance and research and we plan to use it to get the level of exposure in our communities  do not take results of RDTs for now,” said Aman.

For those vending the tests, Aman cautioned them against misrepresenting the utility of RDTs in diagnosis.

He said the Ministry will soon be streamlining regulatory authorities processes and determining exactly the purposes RDTs can be used for.

Health acting Director-General Dr. Patrick Amoth said there is still no cure for coronavirus and explained that use of steroid; dexamethasone has only shown some level of improvement on critical patients.

He was making reference to a recovery study by Oxford University, which showed that dexamethasone applies for critically ill and has reduced the risk of deaths by a third of patients on ventilatory support.

He said the study showed it has also reduced the risk of death by a fifth or 20 percent for those on supplemental oxygen.

Since 88 percent of Kenyan cases are asymptomatic, Amoth said the steroid would only apply on small fraction of the positive cases.

“Dexamethasone is a cheap drug readily available and listed under the WHO essential medical list and under the Kenya 2019 essential list.

Kenyans have the tendency of rushing to the counter to buy any medicine but they should know it has side effects like gaining weight, high blood pressure and sugars.

It causes depression and affects sleep patterns hence people must be weary,” he said.

The last 24-hour testing saw the cumulative caseload rise to 4,044, after confirming 184 more cases.

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