DOST eyes virology institute in Philippines amid COVID-19 pandemic

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2020 12:41 AM

An isolate from the first US case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV or novel coronavirus, is seen in a transmission electron microscopic image obtained from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, US on March 11, 2020. Hannah A Bullock and Azaibi Tamin, CDC/Handout/Reuters

MANILA – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has proposed the creation of a virology institute in the country following the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a statement released Friday, Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said the center would be called the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP), which would serve as the country’s premier research center on virology.

The center would conduct scientific research on viral agents, which would require biosafety level 2 to level 4 laboratories, he said.

“Research studies on viral agents will focus on vector/reservoir transmission, viral ecology, clinical virology, pathogenesis, pathophysiology, and host immune response to these viral pathogens,” De la Peña said.

“The target viral diseases and pathogens may include but are not limited to: Enteric infections; Respiratory infections; CNS (Central Nervous System) infections, Viral infections in the immunocompromised host; and antiviral and antimicrobial resistance,” he added.

De la Peña said the institute would allow “scientists, both here and abroad to work collaboratively to study viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance.”

The Philippines has the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which “was tasked to plan and implement research programs for infectious and tropical diseases.”

In 2000, the Muntinlupa City-based facility was designated as the national reference laboratory for dengue, influenza, enteroviruses, measles and other viral exanthems, polio, tuberculosis and other mycobacteria, bacterial enteric diseases, mycology, emerging diseases, malaria and other parasites.

The RITM is also the confirmatory testing laboratory of blood donor units for the National Voluntary Blood Services Program; the coordinating center for antimicrobial resistance surveillance; a provider of the National External Quality Assurance for Bacteriology, Parasitology and Mycobacteriology; and a World Health Organization-recognized National Influenza Center.