The development in a South Africa laboratory of accurate controls to help in the battle against tuberculosis and the corona virus is a global success story.

It is imperative that testing for these diseases be done at speed, as accurately as possible and in significant quantities. To ensure that this diagnostic testing is done correctly, control materials are required which are live disease causing agents such as living corona virus or TB bacteria. However, these organisms are infectious and cannot be used in a widespread manner to verify diagnostics.

Enter Professor Bavesh Kana (above), together with his Biomimicry Diagnostic Verification Controls team at the DSI/NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research at the University of the Witwatersrand. They developed a suite of biomimicry-based controls where harmless bacteria were modified to include target genetic elements from organisms such as TB and SARS-CoV-2, thus mimicking them in testing platforms. This enabled verification of tuberculosis and CoVID-19 diagnostics across South Africa which are also now widely used on the international marketplace.