DOH drafting more guidelines on use of different COVID-19 tests

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2020 07:58 PM

MANILA — Following comments by doctors that the use of rapid antibody test kits might have contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, the Department of Health on Wednesday said it will soon release additional guidelines on the various test kits available.

“To help the public and our medical community, the DOH is currently drafting omnibus guidelines on the use of different test kits. The guideline will enumerate the purpose of each test and the conditions they may be used in,” the DOH said in a statement to media. 

Although government has allowed the use of rapid antibody test kits, which measure antibodies instead of the actual COVID-19 virus, the DOH has repeatedly said that it should not be used as a standalone test. 

A positive result in a rapid test still needs to be confirmed by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which the DOH considers the gold standard for COVID-19 testing.

This is because antibody test kits are prone to false positive or false negative results or inaccuracies. Doctors said this could result in many people having “false security,” contributing to the spread of the virus.

“This is also the reason why, as stipulated in our guidelines, consultation with a licensed physician on the purpose and use of rapid antibody testing is necessary to ensure proper timing of testing and correct interpretation of results,” the DOH said.

“Rapid test can only be used for baseline testing or for checking seroprevalence every 14 days,” it added.

Seroprevalence refers to the number of persons in a population who test positive for a specific disease based on blood specimen.

The DOH said what is more important is for the public to follow health protocols such as physical distancing, frequent handwashing and proper use of face masks, regardless of the test they took.

“Remember that you can still be exposed within the time you took the test and the result was released,” the agency added.

Medical societies issued a reminder this week that rapid antibody test kits should not be used to screen employees returning to work. The DOH confirmed that such tests are not required, and that clinical screening- checking if an individual has signs and symptoms of the disease- is instead needed.