Source: Capital FM
By JUDIE KABERIA on December 30, 2011
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 30 – The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) is next year expected to start manufacturing test kits for haemorrhagic fevers.
Director of Public Health and Sanitation Shahnaz Sharif said with support from the Japanese government, KEMRI will manufacture haemorrhagic fever test kits which will also be exported to Sub Saharan Africa.
“What KEMRI is now embarking on is to start manufacturing kits to test for viral haemorrhagic fevers. It is a project which has already started with the support of Japanese government,” he explained.
He said Sub Saharan countries depend on KEMRI or other overseas countries to have tests of viral haemorrhagic fevers done.
In an interview, Sharif told Capital News that once a mission from Japan arrives at KEMRI to make their assessment in April, the two countries will come up with strategies and modalities of manufacturing the test kits.
He said the government had already identified space at KEMRI where the project will be based.
“We have already identified space. When making test kits it has to be very specific standards, according to international standards, laboratories in KEMRI are very sensitive, it is a very secure laboratory,” Sharif explained.
He further announced that KEMRI was already manufacturing test kits for hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS but they cannot be used since the World Health Organisation (WHO) is yet to approve them.
He said once approved, Kenya will depend on locally produced HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B test kits.
“We would love to use those HIV test kits but we cannot use them because they have not been pre-qualified by WHO. We have been waiting for the pre-qualification for the last one year,” he said.
He said once the WHO team approves, Kenya will become the first country is Sub Saharan Africa to manufacture and export test kits.
Currently, Kenya depends on foreign HIV and Hepatitis B test kits.
Meanwhile, Sharif said there was no reason to panic after the WHO recalled one million HIV test kits because of fears about their accuracy.
He said the South Korean-manufactured HIV test kits did not affect Kenya’s HIV/AIDS testing programme as the country uses an ‘extremely sensitive test kit’ in first line screening.
“Let me assure everybody that nobody got the wrong results because in Kenya we use an extremely sensitive test, it gives about 99 percent and it has extremely reliable results,” he assured.
He explained that the WHO recalled the one million test kits as they showed a discrepancy of about 50 percent, “the discrepancy result mean those diagnosed positive were negative and those negative tested positive, in Kenya we use a different system.”
Kenya, like many African countries, is trying to contain the HIV/AIDS pandemic with a record of declining rates of HIV/AIDS infection in 2011.
In 2000, Kenya had only three voluntary testing and counselling sites, but the number has tremendously grown to thousands of them across the country.