MANILA - A test kit for the new coronavirus is being developed at the University of the Philippines' National Institutes of Health, the project's lead scientist said Tuesday.
Filipino scientists developed the test kits 2 weeks ago, after the World Health Organization released the whole genome sequence of the virus, according to Dr. Raul Destura, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.
"The limiting factor was bringing in the raw materials in the country. We’re doing the protocol for strict manufacturing process. Hopefully by next week it will be ready for DOH (Department of Health) to verify and validate," he told senators.
The Philippines previously sent specimens of persons suspected of carrying the new virus strain to the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Australia for confirmation.
The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa received from Japan RNA primers which help identify the specific strain of virus on Jan. 29, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
"The rapid diagnostic test has to undergo assessment by the experts and I defer to the WHO to guide us," he told senators.
The WHO, meantime, said its assessments of the test kits would be completed in 7 to 10 days.
"The WHO is working with several research groups both inside and outside China on the rapid diagnostic test kits," WHO representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.
"The assessments of the test kits will not be completed for about another week to 10 days, after which we have agreed we will provide test kits to Philippines and other countries."
The Philippines on Wednesday confirmed its 3rd case of the novel coronavirus--a 60-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan who arrived in Cebu and then traveled to Bohol.
Two samples were taken from the patient- one on Jan. 23 and another on Jan. 24, with the earlier specimen confirming presence of novel coronavirus, though it came later than results of the second sample.
Samples taken from the patient on Jan. 24 tested negative when it was sent to Australia and the RITM. However, samples taken a day before tested positive at the RITM, according to results released on Monday.