Regulator should speed up review of COVID-19 saliva testing: official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 05 2021 02:26 PM

Health workers wait for test samples outside The Lord’s Grace Medical and Industrial Clinic, a molecular diagnostic laboratory in Pasay City on Sept. 29, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The country's drug regulator under the Department of Health should speed up its study on the use of a saliva-based COVID-19 test, an official said on Tuesday. 

Authorities last year submitted the method for validation, said testing czar Vince Dizon. 

"Sana po bilisan na ng ating regulatory agencies at validation agencies under the Department of Health ang pagpapalabas ng guidelines dito para magamit na natin itong saliva test," he told reporters in an online briefing. 

(I hope our regulatory agencies, validation agencies under the Department of Health could fast-track the release of guidelines on this so we could use this saliva test.)

"Sana sa loob ng linggong ito, sa susunod na linggo ay lumabas na," he added.

(I hope by this week, next week these could come out.)

A polymerase chain reaction coronavirus (PCR) test using saliva is reportedly safer and easier compared to the currently dominant swab method that collects mucus from the back part of the nose. 

The saliva test should boost the country's testing capabilities and mean a four-fold increase in the output of samples compared with the conventional RT-PCR test, said Singapore's Health Sciences Authority, Advanced MedTech.

To ramp up COVID-19 screening, the Philippines has approved guidelines for pool testing, in which specimens will be grouped by 5 and undergo one PCR test. If one specimen yields a negative result, all the specimens in that batch are deemed negative. 

But if one tests positive, the pool will be halved and tested again. This step will be repeated, further shrinking the pool, until the test identifies the sample that produced the positive result. 

"Limang specimen kada test so makakatipid po tayo... Divided by 5 ang magiging cost ng PCR test," said Dizon. 

(There will be five specimens per test so we can save money. The cost of the PCR test will be divided by 5.)

Pool testing can be used in incidents where coronavirus spread is low, like among returning migrant workers who only yield a 2-percent COVID-19 positivity rate, Dizon said. 

The Philippines has run 6.8 million coronavirus tests since last year. Dizon said he was "very confident" that the government could meets its target of 10 million tests in the first quarter 2021. 

Video courtesy of PTV