Diagnostics for COVID-19: A case for field-deployable, rapid molecular tests for community surveillance.

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Across the globe, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is causing distress with governments doing everything in their power to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) to prevent morbidity and mortality. Actions are being implemented to keep health care systems from being overstretched and to curb the outbreak. Any policy responses aimed at slowing down the spread of the virus and mitigating its immediate effects on health care systems require a firm basis of information about the absolute number of currently infected people, growth rates, and locations/hotspots of infections. The only way to obtain this base of information is by conducting numerous tests in a targeted way. Currently, in Ghana, there is a centralized testing approach, that takes 4-5 days for samples to be shipped and tested at central reference laboratories with results communicated to the district, regional and national stakeholders. This delay in diagnosis increases the risk of ongoing transmission in communities and vulnerable institutions. We have validated, evaluated and deployed an innovative diagnostic tool on a mobile laboratory platform to accelerate the COVID-19 testing. A preliminary result of 74 samples from COVID-19 suspected cases has a positivity rate of 12% with a turn-around time of fewer than 3 hours from sample taking to reporting of results, significantly reducing the waiting time from days to hours, enabling expedient response by the health system for contact tracing to reduce transmission and additionally improving case management.Test kits were provided by AngloGold Ashanti Obuasi Mine (AngloGold Ashanti Health Foundation). The American Leprosy Mission donated the PCR machine, and the mobile laboratory van was funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN). AAS, YAA was supported by (PANDORA-ID-NET RIA2016E-1609) and ROP supported by EDCTP Senior Fellowship (TMA2016SF), both funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP2) programme which is supported under Horizon 2020, the European Union.

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Authors: Michael Frimpong, Yaw A Amoako, Kwadwo B Anim, Hubert S Ahor, Richmond Yeboah, Joshua Arthur, Justin S Dakorah, Delphine Gborgblovor, Samuel Akrofi, Phyllis Sekyi-Djan, Michael Owusu, Augustina A Sylverken, Tabea Binger, Richard O Phillips