Guyana’s coronavirus tests meet WHO standards

Health Ministry sheds light on testing process

DPI, Guyana, Friday, April 17, 2020

The Ministry of Public Health’s Director of Disease Control, Dr. Nadia Liu, has given assurance that Guyana’s testing for COVID-19 is in keeping with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) protocols.

Appearing on the NCN programme COVID-19 Conversations, Dr. Liu stated that Guyana’s tests are Gold Standard and meets that of the WHO.

She explained that the tests take six to eight hours to produce results using the real-time method. There are rapid tests available which provide faster results, but Dr. Liu cautioned that those were not WHO approved and have a higher chance of faulty results.

“Guyana is using the Berlin-based real-time methodology, and that is recommended by the World Health Organization and what we would have received training for.”

Guyana’s method also has a 95 percent specificity and sensitivity rate, while the acceptable standard is 85 percent. This means that the test can detect a wide range of microorganisms, as well as the one being investigated.

Currently, the Ministry has five qualified lab technicians performing testing for COVID-19 at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory – the only recommended institution for testing – which can produce up to 96 test results within 24 hours.

Dr. Liu explained that for the testing to occur at the laboratory, the individual would have to be considered a suspected case.

This means they have a fever, cough, difficulty breathing within the past 14 days or since the onset of the disease, have a recent travel history, may have been exposed to community transmission, exposed to a health facility, or have an acute respiratory illness.

A sample would be taken from the individual if it is suspected they were in contact with the virus.

“The preferred sample is a nasal pharyngeal swabs sample that’s been taken right up the nasal pharynx [nose] or oral pharyngeal swabs that are taken in the mouth.” Dr. Liu said.

She explained that the swab is sterile and placed into a viral transport medium to be taken to the Reference Laboratory under controlled conditions.

“You open it and you bury the swab inside then you close it tightly. This viral transport medium has to be accompanied with the name of the suspected case, the age, the time of collection, the date of collection, and who collected it.

“The swab that was placed into the viral transport medium is then placed into a biohazard bag with the accompanying requisition form that goes inside so that we know uniquely that this is identifiable for one case and there is no mix-up,” Dr. Liu stated.

The viral transport medium is also accompanied by a laboratory investigation form that has to include the suspected case’s information and the individual’s contact information.

In the case of a positive result, the patient is put into institutional isolation. A negative result leads to further tests for Influenza A and B (the flu) to rule out other possibilities, and the patient may also be quarantined.

With the number of confirmed cases in Guyana at 57, Dr. Liu is encouraging the general public to adhere to social distancing guidelines, use personal and protective equipment, and follow the necessary hygienic practices.