MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday said it will not recommend banning the use of rapid antibody test kit for the coronavirus disease since it has other uses, but it will release guidelines on all COVID-19 tests soon.
This after doctors reiterated that antibody tests only give a false sense of security and may have even contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country.
“Hindi naman kailangan i-ban (ang rapid antibody tests) kasi may gamit sya sa ating (COVID-19) response,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing on Monday.
(We don’t need to ban it because it has a role in our COVID-19 response.)
“Pwedeng gamitin ang rapid antibody test sa mga pasyente na nakaka-recover na o pwede nang ma-tag as recovered,” Vergeire said.
(The rapid antibody test can be used on patients who are recovering, or who may be tagged as recovered.)
She explained that on the 21st day of a patient’s illness, the test is believed to be accurate in detecting antibodies, specifically immunoglobulin G, which indicates that a patient has already recovered.
Vergeire said that while the rapid antibody tests should not be used to screen for COVID-19, it has its uses.
The health official said they already have 2 sets of experts working on “Omnibus Guidelines” for all COVID-related tests.
“So gusto lang natin may isang dokumento na magre-refer lahat ng gumagamit kung anong appropriate use for each testing methodology,” Vergeire said.
(So we want just one document where everyone can refer to on the appropriate use for each testing methodology.)
Vergeire said reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is still the gold standard for PCR testing. It is the only test recognized for confirming COVID-19 cases.
She said RT PCR tests are “appropriate to use 2 days from the onset of symptoms.”
Besides PCR and antibody tests, the DOH also recognizes the use of antigen tests.
“Yung antigen testing, mas accurate s'ya sa rapid. Pero hindi pa rin s'ya standalone test,” she said, which means it still needs a confirmatory PCR test. “Ang ating antigen test very, sensitive and accurate for the first 5 days of illness.”
(Antigen testing is more accurate than rapid tests, but it’s still not a standalone test. An antigen tests can be very sensitive and accurate for the first 5 days of illness.)
An antigen tests can tell if a person is infected with the virus since it can detect proteins, such as the spike proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, it is said to have a lower sensitivity than a PCR test.
Vergeire said the guidelines were drafted last week and experts were already able to give recommendations.
She did not say when the guidelines will be finalized and released to the public.