72 South Africans volunteer for Wits Covid-19 rapid test study, but more needed


Seventy-two South Africans have volunteered to participate in the University of Witwatersrand's Covid-19 rapid test study, but the institution says it needs more volunteers. 

"So far, we have about 70 (exactly 72 yesterday). So about a quarter of the way there," head of immunology at Wits, Dr Elizabeth Mayne told News24 on Wednesday.

The institution's immunology department study, which aims to ensure that existing rapid tests for Covid-19 are accurate, needs at least 300 volunteers. It is looking for volunteers who tested positive for the novel coronavirus or who have been in contact with someone who tested positive.

"Qualifying volunteers will need to submit blood and saliva samples for serological testing for Covid-19. This includes the rapid antibody tests and the formal serology assays. (An assay is a laboratory procedure to measure quantities)," the institution explained.

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This study is of importance because South Africa needs to increase testing for Covid-19 so that infection can be identified, traced, isolated and contained.

"Although there are rapid diagnostic tests available that can test for antibodies in the blood and deliver a result within minutes, these tests have not performed consistently well," Dr Mayne said.

"To check that the various rapid tests being brought into South Africa work, we need blood and saliva samples from 300 people who tested positive for coronavirus, or who were in close contact with someone who tested positive," she added.

What volunteers need to know:

  • Participation is voluntary and consent can be withdrawn at any time without reason. Such withdrawal will have no effect on participants' diagnosis or treatment.
  • Participants will not be paid or in any way be financially remunerated for participating.
  • Participants will not be able to get the results of their tests.
  • You will be asked questions about your age, any underlying conditions you might have, such as high blood pressure and chronic lung diseases, any medications being taken, when you tested positive, your travel history and whether or not you had any symptoms.
  • A nurse will be dispatched to your home. The nurse, wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), will extract around eight teaspoons of blood from you, as well as some saliva and some mouth/throat swabs.
  • These bio-samples of your blood and saliva will be used to create banks of known positive and negative controls, which scientists around the country can use to quickly and accurately evaluate any rapid or serological tests.

If you meet the criteria and wish to participate, email Elizabeth.mayne@nhls.ac.za or call 082 337 6349 for briefing and enrolment.

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