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UVRI Considers Using Cobas System to Test More COVID-19 Samples

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This is one of the systems approved by the World Health Organization-WHO or the American Food and Drug Administration under emergency authorisation. The system hasn’t undergone the normal authorisation process because of the growing demand for test kits for COVID-19 samples across the world with over 1 million people infected.
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Uganda Virus Research Institute-UVRI is considering using the Roche Cobas 6800/8800 system to test corona virus samples. Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director Uganda Virus Research Institute, says the Roche Cobas 6800/8800 system will enable them test between 340- 950 samples within 8 hours. 

This is one of the systems approved by the World Health Organization-WHO or the American Food and Drug Administration under emergency authorisation. The system hasn’t undergone the normal authorisation process because of the growing demand for test kits for COVID-19 samples across the world with over 1 million people infected. 

However, the system has been pre-tested for accuracy and recommended for use. Kaleebu says the Roche Cobas system will boost their capacity to to handle more samples compared to the test kits they have been using, which can only test a maximum of 500 samples a day.  

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Ever since the emergence of the coronavirus disease-COVID-19 in China and it's spread to several parts of the world including Uganda, UVRI has tested 3,500 samples, 53 of which tested positive. The Institute receives on average 50 to 150 samples for testing each day. 

Kaleebu however, notes that they will not abandon the current testing kits but they just want to prepare for an increased workload by adding another method to enhance capacity in the event that the institute starts receiving 1,000 samples daily. He says the only issue with using Roche Cobas system is that "you must have 480 samples per shift otherwise you will be wasting the reagents." 

The World Health Organization -WHO pledged to donate to UVRI reagents for the Roche Cobas system last month to test between 2,000 and 5,000 COVID-19 samples. WHO is yet to fulfill its pledge. On Tuesday, Parliament approved an additional Shillings 4.5 billion for UVRI and the Central Public Laboratory-CPHL to handle COVID-19 samples. 

Kaleebu notes that the Central Public Health Laboratory-CPHL, which is found in Butabika has the Roche Cobas system, which he says is also compiling an inventory of the test kits both public and private laboratories in the country and their capacity to test COVID-19 samples to support UVRI.  

He is optimistic that the manufacturer of the Roche Cobas systems will also supply the reagents once UVRI is given the green light from Ministries of Health and Finance to procure them. "So many manufacturers are trying to make test kits and their reagents.   I therefore believe the ones for Roche Cobas will also provide the accompanying reagents," Kaleebu said.

 

UVRI has been using test kits that are not machine specific, which made it easy for the Institute to use the same machines it uses for testing influenza, HIV and Hepatitis B. "Since influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory viruses, they have some similarities such as signs and symptoms," Kaleebu said.

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