NIGERIA – Nigeria’s Oligo synthesizer laboratory has been found to be effective in relaying timely and accurate diagnoses when used by scientists to design and develop primers, which are shorter versions of genes and can be used for testing diseases within 24 hours.

According to intergovernmental organization SciDev.Net, experts say the Oligo synthesizer, which is available at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) in Lagos, could boost West Africa’s ability to diagnose diseases such as monkeypox in the West African region.

The organization said that the Nigerian high-tech lab was launched in 2021 and fully commenced operation in May 2022, noting that MTN Foundation spent about US$233,000 to help set up the laboratory

The first of its kind in West Africa, the laboratory at NIMR provides low-cost, direct-to-consumer testing as it costs about US$12 to use the Oligo synthesizer machine to diagnose diseases.

SciDev.Net further said that the advanced facility is available for use by African scientists to help control diseases since the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research collaborates with medical institutions in Africa.

The laboratory researchers underscored that the Oligo synthesizer laboratory could be a game changer in tackling emerging and re-emerging diseases in the region if harnessed to its full potential.

Moreover, NIMR has been urged to ensure that scientists in the region know about the laboratory and foster more collaboration for its maximum use while working to ensure that laboratory-based diagnosis is available in rural areas.

Unlike when we were at the mercy of Western countries to access advanced technology and laboratories, Nigeria can now diagnose all mystery diseases locally and in a very timely fashion,” Ayorinde James, Research Fellow at the NIMR told the organization.

He explained that there are laboratories in West Africa that can rapidly identify the genetic makeup of disease-causing organisms but none has an Oligo synthesizer which can be used to make test kits while noting that the machine in Nigeria is already impacting and saving lives.

We need to keep investing, getting more accessories, to improve the quality of what we are doing. There is a need for expansion,” the Research Fellow said.

Ayorinde further revealed that his colleagues are currently working on human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing for bone marrow transplant and breast cancer sequencing.

HLA typing is a type of genetic test conducted to examine factors that impact the body’s immune system, which fights diseases.

We were able to save the life of a child a few weeks ago, who had a bone marrow transplant outside the country. The child became ill when he came back to Nigeria. His doctor abroad wanted to find out which virus was affecting the child,” Ayorinde said.

He noted that in less than 24 hours, the health experts were able to provide information on what the problems were, which enabled the doctor to make an informed decision to save his life.

If we were to send his sample abroad, which takes two to three weeks before we can get the result, the boy won’t have survived. This is just one of the game-changing effects of the machine,” he highlighted.

Bamidele Abiodun Iwalokun, Head of the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Division at the NIMR also confirmed that within a short period , scientists have been able to carry out a lot of experiments.

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