MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health warned the Philippine Basketball Association on Thursday against using antigen tests and declaring test results as “false positive” following a suspected case of COVID-19 inside the season bubble in Clark, Pampanga.
Health department spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire explained in a media briefing that antigen tests are not as sensitive as RT-PCR tests, which are considered to the gold standard in screening for the new coronavirus.
“The antigen test, it is really accurate during that time that the person is infectious, has high viral load and is symptomatic,” she told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino. “But I heard that the patient is asymptomatic.”
“So it might be, when they tested with antigen, the patient is just presymptomatic or the viral load is still not that high, that’s why he tested negative on the antigen test,” she added.
A referee, who had been tested three times prior to entering the season bubble, tested positive for the new coronavirus on his fourth test, but tested negative in a subsequent antigen test.
The PBA, Clark Development Corporation and the Bases and Conversion Development Authority then came up with a joint statement suggesting that the referee may have gotten a false positive test.
But Vergeire said the referee’s test results need to be studied further before it is ruled as a false positive.
“We need to see if the cycle threshold is high or low so we would know if the patient has a high viral load,” she said.
A higher cycle threshold means a lower viral load, while a lower cycle threshold means a higher viral load.
Vergeire said the referee needs to be tested using the RT-PCR method as soon as possible.
The referee would undergo another RT-PCR test. Meanwhile, he will be quarantined for 14 days at the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City. — Xave Gregorio