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NUST’s DNA Laboratory to solve Cyclone Idai Victims identification crisis

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THE National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Applied Genetics Testing Centre (AGTC) which is its DNA laboratory is by October expected to have completed the complex process of the identifying 150 Cyclone Idai victims who were buried unidentified in Mozambique two years ago.

The country’s premier DNA testing centre offers forensic services to different Government departments including the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Civil Protection Unit (CPU),” reads the citation. AGTC was also recognised for the work it has done in the identification of several state of disaster victims who were burnt beyond recognition in road accidents.

The AGTC citation further shows that the laboratory has solved over 1 000 forensic cases for police including murder, sexual assault, unlawful entry and stock-theft. “The centre is currently working on the identification of over 150 Cyclone Idai Zimbabwean victims who were buried unidentified in Mozambique.

The complex exercise is set to be completed in October 2021,” reads the citation. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, the AGTC was central in setting up of PCR testing services in the southern parts of the country after deploying its staff and equipment to the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital from April to December 2020.

It conducted more than 40 000 tests covering Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands and Masvingo. “Currently, AGTC is leading a research in the development of capacity to produce Covid-19 (and other pathogens) testing reagents, a major breakthrough in the fight against the pandemic and handling of other diseases like HIV/Aids,” the citation states.

On the other hand, President Mnangagwa accorded Nust the Jairos Jiri Humanitarian Award for its outstanding work in implementing Education 5.0 in the fight against Covid19 pandemic. The university through the AGTC led the Covid-19 tests in Bulawayo before setting up a sanitiser manufacturing plant. “Since 2020, the plant has produced over 400 000 litres of sanitiser trading under the trade name NUSTISER, which was certified by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) under their standard.

Cyclone Idai hit Manicaland Province, leaving over 300 people dead, hundreds more missing and contributed to the displacement of 20 000 families. Some of the bodies that were swept away had to be buried in Mozambique.

Nust through its Applied Genetics Testing Centre (AGTC) has been involved in the identification of the Cyclone Idai victims among other national projects. On Heroes Day last week, President Mnangagwa awarded Nust’s AGTC with the Medal of Meritorious Service Commendation Award for its contributions to national development and solving community challenges.

In the citation accompanying the award, AGTC was honoured for distinguishing itself as a centre of excellence for human and livestock identification, medical diagnosis and forensic analysis. “It has performed over 3 000 human and DNA identification tests, servicing clients across the country and collaborating with foreign laboratories in the United Kingdom and Australia in human identification for immigration purposes.

Ross Moyo

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