Nigerian Pathologists Lament Inadequacy of COVID-19 Testing Centres

1 April 2020

Nigerian Pathologists, weekend expressed concern over the inadequacy of COVID-19 testing centres across the country even as they urged the Federal government to substantially decentralise the testing centres as a strategy to accelerate the control of the outbreak.

The Pathologists also frowned at a lack of laboratory testing in tertiary health institutions across the country, saying: "We do not see any reason why our tertiary health care centres where competent pathologists and medical laboratory scientists are situated, cannot carry out COVID-19 tests."

In a statement signed by the President of the College of Nigerian Pathologists, CNP, Professor Philip Olatunji, the Federal and State governments were urged to deploy a portion of the COVID-19 budget to tertiary health institutions to bridge existing deficiencies in the diagnostic laboratories.

Stating that they were aware of the advertisement of a few rapid serological test kits being touted for the diagnosis of COVID-19, while some are already showing interest, they added: "In the first instance, many of these kits are antibody-based and may not be appropriate for an accurate diagnosis.

Secondly, they are not validated; hence their sensitivity and specificity are unknown. "While we caution against using these test kits, we recommend that an in-country evaluation could be done for some that are said to be antigen-based.

"We are of the view that anything that can positively contribute to the control of the pandemic should be embraced. While we recommend that at this critical moment, the diagnostic utility should employ the NCDC recommended Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), we call for a more innovative and quicker diagnostic approach."

Speaking on chloroquine use, Olatunji expressed CNP's concern about a possible abuse arising from its purported usefulness in treating COVID-19 infection.

He noted that although evidence is emerging about its efficacy, there is a need to apply caution against inappropriate use of chloroquine due to its damaging effect to the eye and interference with the functioning of the heart.

"Chloroquine should therefore only be used under the guidance of certified medical personnel in the care of people with COVID-19 infection. We condemn the hiking of the cost of chloroquine, face masks, hand gloves, and sanitizer, which are essential for the protection and prevention of the population, by unpatriotic vendors and dealers.

"We also caution against the spread of fake and unverified news. Members of the public should consult WHO, CDC, NCDC, and other authoritative websites and sources for reliable information. Share only information you have personally verified; if you are in doubt do not share."

He said the CNP was happy that more than 95 percent of infected persons were stable, urging Nigerians not to panic or get confused or over-react but keep to all preventive and protective instructions.

"Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are unavailable; do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick, sneezing or coughing, and stay at home when you feel sick. Coughing or sneezing should be done into a tissue or flexed elbow, and tissue should be properly disposed into the trash or waste bins.

"Surfaces and objects people frequently touch should be cleaned and disinfected. Wear a face mask if you have respiratory symptoms or are caring for someone with respiratory symptoms. Maintain a social distance of six feet (2 metres) and please notify the NCDC (080097000010) if you have traveled within the last 14 days to a country with community transmission of COVID-19.

Avoid self-medication and notify appropriate health facilities if you observe any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, tiredness, sore throat and difficulty in breathing)."

He enjoined all members of CNP to play active roles in any NMA, MDCAN, NARD, and partner with the Federal and State governments in the fight against the scourge. We shall conquer if we do not despair. This also shall come to pass like Ebola if all hands are on deck."

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