COVID-19: Five processes samples go through before labeled positive or Negative at Noguchi Memorial Institute (+video)

The whole world is battling the deadly contagion, COVID-19 and Ghana is not spared from this pandemic.

“We have a simple message to all countries – test, test, test,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month in a press briefing on measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Geneva.

Experts believe that mass testing for COVID-19, would allow positive cases to be isolated and help identify those who came in contact with them, helping to curb further transmission.

Many are wondering how the results of the reported cases in Ghana are tested. We take a look at the five processes the samples collected go through before they are labeled positive or negative at the Noguchi Memorial Institute in Accra.

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The first step is reception of the collected samples from the suspected individuals. Samples collected are received at the designated point at the Noguchi Memorial Institute before they are prepared and transferred to the laboratory for investigations. Some of the samples collected include deep nostril swaps, throat swaps and sputum.

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The second step involves the data entry. Data Entry Personnel match the samples ID with specific samples. The samples are sorted out and they are given laboratory identities. This allows the personnel to easily work with the samples.

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Thirdly, the virus is extracted from the sample in the Virology Lab. SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is a single-stranded RNA virus. For accurate and sensitive coronavirus detection viral RNA has to be isolated from the sample.

The next step is the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Tests. This is the point where the sample is determined whether it is positive or negative of the coronavirus. PCR tests are used to directly detect the presence of the genetic information of the virus, the RNA. 

The final step is getting the result of the laboratory results to the patient. This step is handled by the Data Centre of the Noguchi Memorial Institute. After the laboratory results are verified, a member of the Data Centre Team will contact the appropriate health authorities about the results before the information is disseminated.

To ensure quality assurance, the engaged laboratories perform repetitive tests on selected samples and compare the results to ensure accuracy and reliability from all the laboratories.

Ghana has tested over 60,000 individuals, the second highest in total number of testing in Africa. This testing exercise has been spearheaded by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), assisted by the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) in Kumasi and other laboratories in the country who work around the clock to help the fight against this pestilence.

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