Concepcion prods DOH on saliva testing
Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, speaking at the weekly virtual Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, said that testing saliva through reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) produces quick and reliable results.
STAR/ File

Concepcion prods DOH on saliva testing

Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) - December 3, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — An adviser of President Duterte yesterday urged the Department of Health (DOH) to immediately act on the proposal to study shifting to saliva testing for COVID-19.

Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, speaking at the weekly virtual Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, said that testing saliva through reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) produces quick and reliable results.

He said it is also much cheaper and faster since the swabbing process can be skipped.

Concepcion said his group is funding local research on using saliva in testing for COVID-19, as is being done in the United States.

“My estimate is that if the prevalence of the virus is less than five percent in areas or in the barangays, the cost will be between P500 to P650 per person on RT-PCR,” he said. “We are funding the research using saliva for RT-PCR. That is another breakthrough; it is being done right now in America.”

Concepcion said the Philippine Red Cross is also starting to do its own study on saliva testing.

“So Dr. Raymond Long, the head researcher of the PSP, is a doing this for our group. Hopefully, that would even bring down the cost because we will not

need swabbers, we will not need an instruction machine and it will be faster,” he said.

Concepcion said that they are hoping for the antigen validation, especially the new antigen that has come out which is the saliva-based antigen kit. “Antigen is great for areas without a laboratory,” he said.

He revealed that Tessie Sy-Coson, vice chairman of SM Investments Corp., played a role in linking his group with AstraZeneca to explore its zero-profit

program for the British pharmaceutical’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“And that is how we got involved because we have been getting involved in all these initiatives about (saliva) testing,” Concepcion said of the teamwork between the government and the private sector in the country’s COVID-19 response.

“With AstraZeneca, what attracted us is the cost of the vaccine which is at $5,” he said.

He added that vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and the DOH are working out a “win-win” tripartite format of an agreement with the private sector and pharmaceutical firms providing the vaccine.

Yesterday, Philippine Red Cross chairman Sen. Richard Gordon suggested that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) research reagents commonly used in COVID-19 testing kits so the country could make its own test kits.

“My question is, why can’t DOST copy the reagents? We should be doing that. Copy the reagents and maybe we can produce our own (test kits) that are cheaper. Maybe test kits, swabs, maybe we can

produce that,” Gordon said in an interview aired over ANC.

“I want them to research. Why can’t we do a simple thing as reagents? I mean we should be able to track down the content of that,” he added, saying other countries have done well in developing their own by copying reagents of other developed countries.

Singapore markets portable test kit

Meanwhile, Singapore is now marketing a palm-sized portable genetic test kit that will detect the COVID-19 virus within minutes through nasal swab or saliva samples.

According to Cell ID Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-incorporated med-tech company, the test kit called

Quiz PCR Biochip uses biotechnology to perform two tests on nasal swab or saliva samples.

The technology uses an app on a laptop to detect the virus outside of laboratory so it can be done “anytime, anywhere.”

The company said in a statement that “positive results are confirmed in as fast as five minutes and negative results are returned within an hour.”

A QR code on the biochip also offers traceability which allows healthcare providers to quickly identify and electronically deliver the test results to the person being tested.

“Quiz PCR Biochips are affordable, single-use genetic tests that can detect COVID-19, anywhere at any time,” said inventor Xander Sim, chief technology officer and co-founder of Cell ID.

Two genetic tests can run concurrently using the same or different protocol -– PCR tests or RT-LAMP assay.

Sim said the RT-LAMP assay “fully meets the 95 percent CI accuracy standard.”

The biochips are hot-swappable, meaning that the pairs of tests can run on demand without the waiting time associated with batch processing.

The efficacy of the biochips has been tested in Singapore in collaboration with local healthcare agencies at two quarantine facilities (EXPO and a foreign workers dormitory) between July and October 2020.

A third-party laboratory separately validated the test’s efficacy in Switzerland this month. – Neil Jayson Servallos, Sheila Crisostomo

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