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Automated DNA extractors arrive at pathology institute to double testing capacity

Automated DNA extractors arrive at pathology institute to double testing capacity

The testing capacity for pathogens at the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) got a tremendous boost this week when financial services giant, Old Mutual, handed the institute two automated extraction machines that can process about 100 tests per day.

The two QIAcube Connect machines, together with other medical consumables used for testing, were officially handed to the institute on Tuesday during a ceremony at the institute’s laboratory in Windhoek where guests and dignitaries were escorted by the laboratory’s Senior Manager of Specialised Services, Gerhard van Rooyen.

Old Mutual Namibia’s Group Chief Executive, Kosmas Egumbo said this equipment is part of the life insurer’s overall Covid-19 pledge of N$5 million.

In the first instance, the company allocated some of the funding for food security and improved hygiene at community level. The second tranche of funding is applied to acquire testing equipment, broaden the scale of testing, and ensure that a sufficient number of testing kits is available. For this, Old Mutual has availed N$1.7 million for equipment and N$1 million to strengthen contact tracing.

“These machines will be used to prepare the samples for testing, an important function that is currently being performed manually. The manual extraction of 48 samples takes anywhere from 4 to 5 hours by two individuals, each doing 24 samples. With the automated extraction, in a normal eight hour shift, NIP will be able to extract 72 samples as one person can run both machines, taking 12 samples at a time,” said Egumbo.

The institute’s acting Chief of Operations, Boniface Makumbi said they have reagent and other consumables for 20,000 tests. Furthermore, at the Windhoek laboratory there are ten medical scientists whose only focus is to process tests. The central laboratory will also serve the five regional laboratories in Oshakati, Rundu, Katima Mulilo, Walvis Bay and Keetmanshoop. These are all equipped with triple packing specimen transportation boxes, and can ship specimens overnight to Windhoek.

The Namibia Institute of Pathology’s Board Chairperson, Bryan Eiseb said it is crucial that testing capacity is increased as a means to respond timely to the detection of new infections and suspected infections.

“This N$1.7 million donation of Old Mutual in the form of two automated extraction machines, with all the reagents that are needed to extract 10 080 tests, is indeed a welcome relief to us as an institution and indeed to the country,” he said.

Post COVID-19, the institute will utilise the instruments for research purposes which will increase Namibia’s test repertoire.

Caption: Kosmas Egumbo (middle), Old Mutual Namibia’s Group Chief Executive with Dr David Uirab (left), the acting Chief Executive of the Namibia Institute of Pathology, and Brian Eiseb, the institute’s board chairman.


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