First home-grown Covid-19 antigen test hits shelves in South Africa

Covid-19 or normal flu? Kit gives results within 15 seconds

17 May 2023 - 15:12
By Sipokazi Fokazi
University of the Western Cape alumnus Ashley Uys.
Image: Supplied University of the Western Cape alumnus Ashley Uys.

Africa’s first locally produced Covid-19 antigen test has hit the shelves at local pharmacies and supermarkets in time for the start of flu season. 

The home test kit, developed by University of the Western Cape (UWC) alumnus Ashley Uys and his team, is also the first home-grown Covid-19 test to be approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra). 

The kit, which provides results within 15 seconds, works with an app to divulge whether the user has Covid-19 or normal flu, and sells for 35% less than imported kits now on the market.  

“We are most proud of being the first African manufacturer of Covid-19 tests to be approved by Sahpra,” said Uys.

“With the products we create, we want to not only distribute to supermarkets and pharmacies but to sell directly to the public in schools, at churches and community organisations. I want to go this route to keep the price as affordable as possible.”

Uys, who owns Medical Diagnostech and lives by the motto “Africa for Africa”, believes low-income countries require products of quality at affordable prices. 

“I want to see the African continent thrive and to continue to find ways to help solve Africa’s challenges.

“The long-term plan is to see representation on all major continents and Africa ... to see our main branches in the main African countries where we can supply all neighbouring countries and see our manufacturing facilities represented within major African countries.” 

Growing up in Behlar, close to UWC, Uys graduated with a BSc in Biotechnologies with honours from UWC in 2003. His company has manufactured kits for drug testing, pregnancy, HIV and syphilis, among others. 

Reflecting on a tumultuous pandemic, he said while SA was under strict lockdown, he and his team — wearing hazmat suits — had permission to collect blood samples from residences as part of the first steps to developing the antigen test.  

“It was hard work. This was the basis for our clinical trials and Sahpra approval. What motivated me was seeing the loss of life around me and loved ones suffering. It drove me to wear my hazmat suit to go into homes to assist in collecting blood and swab samples. These were extremely scarce at the time due to the strict lockdowns, but we needed to initiate the development of diagnostic test kits.” 

The HealthPulse TestNow kit comes with easy-to-follow instructions and guided result interpretation. 

The kit works with an app to divulge if a user has Covid-19 or flu.
Image: Supplied The kit works with an app to divulge if a user has Covid-19 or flu.

“I believe self-testing is an important component of public health strategies worldwide and the kit is designed to improve an individual’s self-testing aptitude, while seamlessly connecting ministries of health with test data to maximise the end-to-end impact of public health programmes,” he said. 

“The kit eliminates the queues of people who were seen waiting to be tested and then facing the all-too-familiar stressful additional wait for the outcome.”


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