Local scientists completing 2019-nCoV testing kit
Local scientists completing 2019-nCoV testing kit
(The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) is finalizing a kit to enable the country to conduct confirmatory tests locally on patients suspected of being infected with the deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), an official said on Tuesday night.

PGC deputy executive director Raul Destura said the center is discussing with the Department of Health (DOH) the possibility of working together for the swift identification of the 2019-nCoV.

He noted the center could be part of the rapid response in terms of diagnosing possible cases of the disease first reported last December in Wuhan City, capital of China’s Hubei province.

Destura said the PGC is putting together a kit that will allow confirmatory tests to be done in the Philippines and get results within 24 hours.

This means the DOH will no longer have to send the samples collected from “persons under investigation” for 2019-nCoV to laboratories abroad, the results of which usually come out after a few days. 

“But I think we just need to coordinate all our activities with the DOH. We are already discussing with them as an office so that later on, we can be part of the rapid response in terms of diagnostic,” he told The Chiefs on OneNews at Cignal TV.

Destura said the good news about the disease is that the World Health Organization (WHO) had released the assay protocol of the virus to empower countries to have the ability to start detecting the contagion on their own.

“They actually released the entire whole genome sequence of the virus for the public. So that once you have that sequence you get to identify the unique region that differentiates the novel coronavirus from the previous coronaviruses like SARS and MERS,” he added.

He was referring to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome which rocked the world in 2002 and 2012. Both diseases belong to the coronavirus family.

“We have the units. Fortunately we don’t have a positive sample (of 2019-nCoV) yet in the Philippines... You need a confirmed case to run a sample,” he said.

Destura said it is important for the country to be able to do tests on its own because some shipping companies are “scared of bringing potentially hazardous samples” abroad.

“We have the capability of sequencing them. But I hope and pray to God it will not enter the country. But if that happens, we can support the DOH effort to identify (the virus),” he added.

Testing tools

DOH spokesman Eric Domingo said that the re-agents and primer for 2019-nCoV have arrived from Japan so the Philippines no longer has to rely on laboratories abroad to do confirmatory tests.

He said at a press conference that the six samples they sent to the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia earlier will be the last specimens that will be examined abroad.  

“After the six tests, the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) will no longer be sending test for confirmation in laboratories abroad because the reagents and the primers that we ordered are already here,” he claimed.

Domingo added once the laboratory has been set up within 48 hours, the RITM will be able to start running tests for nCoV.

A reagent is a substance used to perform a laboratory test to detect or measure the presence of other substances.

On the other hand, a primer contains the specific sequencing of amino acid that identifies a certain virus from the others.

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