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Kemri unable to conduct tests to its capacity

By Mercy Mwai
Friday, November 27th, 2020
An elderly man undergoes a COVID-19 nasal swab test. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Mercy Mwai @wangumarci

Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) is currently testing 4,700 Covid-19 samples against a testing capacity of 10,000 tests per day using both manual and automated systems.

In a brief to senators yesterday, Kemri said their testing capacities are constrained by erratic supply of laboratory consumable and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).

According to Kemri Director General Yeri Kombe, the agency’s offices in Nairobi and Kisumu do 1,500 tests daily; Busia-Alupe does 500, Kericho (600), Kilifi (500) and Mandera (100).

“Kemri’s testing capacity is up to 10,000 tests  daily using both manual and automated systems.

However, this is sometimes constrained by erratic supply of laboratory consumable and PPE’s,” said Kombe.

Kombe  had appeared before the Senate committee on Health chaired by Trans Nzoia Senator Michael Mbito to give a status report on the institution’s testing and diagnostic capacity on Covid-19 across the counties.

He said Kemri has the capacity to undertake validation and evaluation of kits, that has seen the institution being mandated by the Ministry of Health and Africa Centres for Disease Control  to evaluate test kits for the country and the region. 

With regards to validation of kits, he said Kemri laboratories normally validate and optimise new test kits and new batches before testing of patient’s samples, which is done lot to lot.

Rapid tests

“So far, we have determined the performance characteristics and usability of at least 20 Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 40 rapid antibody tests. Some of the PCR tests that have passed assessment are in use,” he said.

 And  in an effort to address the current backlog, Kombe said the institution is the process of hiring more staff as they currently have a shortage of technical and scientific personnel.

In Nairobi, there are nine institutions that have been approved to  conduct Covid-19 tests, Machakos has two, Busia (one), Kilifi (two), Kajiado (one), Uasin Gishu (one), Wajir (one) Trans Nzoia (one), Nakuru (one), Kisumu (one) and Kericho (one).

Most of the approved testing sites are laboratories within county referral Hospitals.

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