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Palace hopes for validation of local coronavirus test kits

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By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang has expressed hope that the rapid test kit created by Filipino scientists to determine if a person is positive for the novel coronavirus will pass the rigorous validation of the World Health Organization (WHO) so all hospitals can immediately tell if a patient is infected with the disease.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (Photo from Karlo Nograles  / Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (Photo from Karlo Nograles / Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said this after the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) reported that a local health technology company of Filipino scientists has developed a local diagnostic kit that can test if a patient is positive for the novel coronavirus.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, Nograles hoped the WHO could expedite the validation process so the kits can be rolled out to hospitals as soon as possible.

“With the support of DOST and DOH (Department of Health), we hope to be able to expedite the validation process with the WHO so that as soon as it is validated, we can make these local test kits available for all hospitals for use under physician’s discretion,” he said Friday.

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was also in the press briefing, the test kit would have to be vetted strictly for sensitivity and specificity before they turn it over to the WHO.

“Mahirap naman po kasi na ‘yung resulta ng test ay tagilid. Yung negative ginawang positive or yung positive ginawang negative (It would be difficult if the results would be mixed up). So we will have to apply the most stringent standards of accuracy and sensitivity,” he said.

He added that even if it would take some time before the local test kits could be validated, the country has enough test kits to test samples from patients.

“The stocks that came from Japan, we have about 3,000 test capacities. The WHO has given another 3,000. So far the total number of tests done would be about, say about 500. So we do have sufficient buffer stock of test reagents and the chemical,” Duque said.

Meanwhile, Duque encouraged private hospitals with sophisticated laboratories to also conduct testing. As of now, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is still the sole reference laboratory for all the testing for the new virus.

“We are waiting for the WHO to send us experts for the capacity-building of our laboratories… But I have instructed them (RITM) to already capacitate the subnational reference laboratories,” he said.

“We enjoin private sectors, hospitals with well-known, sophisticated laboratory capabilities. We’re going to help them through accreditation by the RITM. So we’ll bring them into the fold so that we will have a much better capacity to do the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease) testing,” he added.

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