Wednesday, January 13, 2021

DOH, PRC eye cheaper Covid saliva test

TWO STUDIES in the Philippines have confirmed detection of Covid-19 by using saliva as an alternative specimen, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

Senator Richard Gordon, who is also the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, leads the pilot saliva testing and says it is not only cheaper, but non-invasive as well. (From Senator Dick Gordon's Facebook page)

It said the studies carried out by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) have shown “growing” evidence that the saliva can be used as a specimen for testing.

“Recently there has been growing evidence on the potential of saliva as an alternative specimen for Covid-19 testing and the DOH recognizes the potential use of saliva as a specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection through RT-PCR,” DOH said.

So far, the Covid-19 testing is conducted after extracting Nasopharyngeal and Oropharyngeal swabs.

According to the DOH, both the studies being conducted separately by the RITM and the PRC are still in their initial stages, adding that upon completion (of both studies) results will be assessed by the Covid-19 Laboratory Expert Panel (CLEP) and the Health Technology Assessment Council. Their recommendations will help DOH develop an evidence-based policy on the use of saliva as an alternative specimen for coronavirus testing.

The DOH noted that it also recognizes specimen pooling strategies as a prospect for greater Covid-19 testing efficiency by reducing turnaround time and saving on supplies.

It has issued a memorandum to provide interim guidelines on the conduct of Covid-19 pooled testing based on the pooling protocols set by the Philippine Society of Pathologists, Inc., RITM, and DOH.

“Rest assured, the Department of Health will continue to support the conduct of studies and innovations that will help mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in our country,” it added.

President Rodrigo Duterte also expressed readiness on the use of the saliva-based test for Covid-19 which recently guaranteed a 99% detection rate in the US.

Duterte said the saliva-based test would be a good alternative to the more expensive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. “There’s a new type of test, Gordon (Philippine Red Cross Chairman, Senator Richard Gordon) said swabbing saliva is 99% effective. Then let’s use that instead,” he said.

Gordon, who underwent pilot saliva testing, said it is not only cheaper, but non-invasive as well. 

“Kapag ito ay pumasa, mas maraming kababayan na natin ang magkakaroon ng kakayahan na makapagpatest upang sila ay ligtas na makabalik sa trabaho. Kailangan lang nila ilagay ang kanilang laway sa sterile bottle at isumite ang sample sa Red Cross laboratory. Sa ating pilot testing, tayo ay nagsagawa ng parallel swab test upang makita masiguro ang accuracy ng saliva test. Ito ay game-changer sa ating laban kontra Covid-19. Mas madalas na makakapagtest ang ating mga kababayan dahil mas abot-kaya na ang saliva test,” he said.

“We have to learn to adjust to a changing world, where there are pandemics. With the saliva test, we are hoping that there will be more testing done for our people. We hope and pray that this will ease the burden of the Filipinos,” he added.
(Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo, Anadolu Agency and Zamboanga Post.)


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