Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu has been Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) since the 15th of August 2016.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has activated three additional laboratories, bringing the total number of laboratories in the country to 23.

Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, told newsmen at the weekend in Abuja that it would help to increase the nation’s testing capacity and curb the spread of the virus pandemic.

Ihekweazu said the three additional laboratories are in the. University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Rivers State University Teaching Hospital Satelite Molecular Laboratory and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital.

He said some states had more than one laborator like Edo, Lagos and Kano.

The 20 laboratories are the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, the FCT, Defence Reference Laboratory, Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos State and Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory, Lagos State.

There are also Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State.

Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Lagos State, Virology Laboratory of University College Hospital, Ibadan and Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.

Others are: African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Osun State. National Veterinary Research Institute,Vom, Plateau State. Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano State. DNA Laboratory, Kaduna State, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Borno State.

The rest are: Centre for Advanced Medical Research and Training (CARMET), Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, Africa Centre of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology, ABU Zaria, Kaduna State. Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Bayero University Kano, Kano State.

54gene Mobile Laboratory, Ogun State, 54gene Mobile Laboratory, Lagos State, 54gene Mobile Laboratory, Kano State. Mobile laboratory, Delta State.

The D-G said that the agency had come up with Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing strategy, to scale up COVID-19 virus testing.

“At the moment, the COVID-19 tests that we report daily are coming from the PCR, they detect the genetic information of the virus, the RNA. That’s only possible if the virus is there and someone is actively infected.

“PCR tests are used to directly detect the presence of an antigen, rather than the presence of the body’s immune response, or antibodies.

“By detecting viral RNA, which will be present in the body before antibodies form or symptoms of the disease are present, the tests can tell whether or not someone has the virus very early on,” he explained.

Ihekweazu said that PCR gives a good indication of who is infected.

He noted that by scaling PCR testing to screen vast swab samples from within a population like Nigeria, the NCDC officials could get a clearer picture of the spread of a disease like COVID-19 within a population.

He said that It’s worth noting that PCR tests could be very labour intensive and involve several stages at such errors may occur between sampling and analysis.

“This is why the agency has focused on strengthening quality assurance in the laboratories,” he said.

According to him, COVID-19 pandemic, has made the importance of reliable and accessible testing to screen for the virus increasingly obvious.

He said PCR testing had been upgraded from the initial testing procedures and with additional automation to reduce errors.

“Remember as we take swabs from people, we are also faced with the challenge of other organisms floating around, we are essentially dealing with the situation to ensure the ‘right’ result.”

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