NCDC Publishes New Guidance on Use of Approved Rapid Diagnostic Test Kits in Congregate Settings

Monday, January 18, 2021


The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has published new guidance for State Governments, public and private institutions, on the use of approved Antigen (Ag) based Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In September 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) of two Ag RDTs, manufactured by SD Biosensor and Abbott for COVID-19 testing. Following this, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in collaboration with other stakeholders carried out a national validation of these RDTs. The validation which was carried out during the screening held at National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps, showed that the RDTs meet the minimal standards for sensitivity and specificity of COVID 19 diagnostic tests. As more Ag RDTs gain EUA from WHO, we will consider their use in Nigeria.

This new guidance published by NCDC, is to guide the use of RDTs in Nigeria. We are recommending its use, primarily in congregate settings. These include settings such as schools, hospitals for the testing of patients with symptoms of COVID-19 presenting in hospital triage areas and periodic testing of health care workers, in prisons etc.

While RDTs provide a faster turnaround time compared to the molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, there are limitations with this test. For example, the currently available Ag-RDTs have a lower sensitivity compared to PCR tests. The test can therefore present false negative results in people who have been infected with the virus. This is why the molecular PCR method remains the gold standard for testing. An algorithm has been included in the guidance to ensure that cases such as this are not missed.

The NCDC is introducing the use of these rapid antigen tests, to contribute to Nigeria’s overall COVID-19 testing capacity. The Ag-RDTs provide significant advantages over other available testing methods, especially in terms of shorter turnaround times and reduced costs. The correct use of Ag-RDTs will also enable the Government of Nigeria to increase the pace of testing, tracing and providing care for people with COVID-19.

The Ag-RDTs developed by Abbott and SD Biosensor are highly portable and easy to administer. However, infection prevention and control measures must be adhered to by trained health workers administering the test. Further information on this is contained in the guidance published by NCDC.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCDC has continued to lead Nigeria’s public health response activities. As part of this, the agency has been leading the expansion of testing capacity across the country. Till date, 112 public and private testing laboratories have been activated across all states and the Federal Capital Territory. Of the 112 laboratories, 74 of these are public health laboratories and provide testing free of charge to the general public.

It is important that Nigerians are aware of the increasing risk of spread of COVID-19. As of the 17th of January 2021, over 100,000 people have been infected with more than 1,400 deaths from COVID-19 in Nigeria. We urge all Nigerians to take responsibility to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19. Please practice regular handwashing, avoid mass gatherings, wear a face mask properly and ensure physical distancing at all times.

The NCDC remains committed to working with State Governments, other institutions through the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and partners to strengthen Nigeria’s COVID-19 prevention and response activities.

About the NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is the country’s national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. The Bill for an Act to establish NCDC was signed into law in November 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari. The mission for the NCDC (2017-2021) is ‘To protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities, using a One Health approach, guided by research and led by a skilled workforce’.


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Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu

DG, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control

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