UKZN Partners to Boost KZN COVID-19 Testing
The College of Health Sciences (CHS) has handed over 10 mobile COVID-19 testing clinics to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Health.
The hand over - at KwaZulu-Natal’s Disaster Management Centre in Durban - was done with University partners in the project, the Aurum Institute through its subsidiary Global Health Innovations (GHI), as well as corporate sponsors, Nedbank, the Spar Group and Chroma Capital.
The clinics have equipment and trained staff to test an average of 120 to 150 people during a six-hour day
Said Dean of Research in the College, Professor Anil Chuturgoon: ‘The aim of this project is to reach out to extremely poor communities in the KwaZulu-Natal region and provide COVID-19 testing. All of the testing is completely free of charge to the community.
‘In partnership with the Aurum Institute, we will examine samples extracted through swabs taken on site. These will be examined in our state-of-the-art laboratories at UKZN with the conduction of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) through which we will be able to amplify the small samples extracted from the swabs in order to study them in detail. UKZN will also provide an interpretation of the results which we will share with the COVID-19 National Command Centre,’ said Chuturgoon.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College Professor Busisiwe Ncama, said: ‘This partnership project is in line with the mission of the College for social justice in health - we strive for inclusion and access to poor and marginalised communities. We are grateful to all our partners for making this a reality and to the UKZN team that is spearheading this initiative, under the leadership of Professor Churturgoon.’
The world class team will provide screening and testing - endorsed by the Department of Health - for the virus. The UKZN team will also conduct novel research into the virus.
Said Professor Veron Ramsuran, a high impact researcher at UKZN and KRISP: ‘We are working with the Aurum Institute, GHI and UKZN to offer testing to the community at a reduced rate. Using our specialised skill set, we aim to contribute in a responsible manner.
‘We are changing the way academia and diagnostics function by working hand-in-hand to provide support during the epidemic.’
Central to the project is accurate scientific testing and Dr Ravesh Singh of UKZN and the National Health Laboratory Services have made a significant contribution to the project. Said Singh: ‘As an NHLS scientist working with UKZN on the COVID-19 epidemic, I am assisting with the training of researchers at UKZN and the GHI. The specialised testing requires rigorous training to ensure proper diagnostic conditions exist and are followed and accurate results obtained.’
The GHI organisation is a team of scientific experts who have come together with specific expertise to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through high quality services in healthcare including clinical, laboratory, surveillance and epidemiological prevalence studies in a cost effective manner.
The Aurum Institute has a reputable track record as being the best in mobile screening centre for infectious diseases. The recent loss of its Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Gita Ramjee, to COVID-19 has motivated the team to work harder in fighting the virus.
Words: MaryAnn Francis