Four hospitals to begin trial of local test kits for coronavirus

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) – Selected hospitals known for their expertise in treating infectious diseases will begin validating the locally developed test kit for coronavirus disease or COVID-19 to make sure it is safe for public use, one of the product developers said Thursday.

Southern Philippines Medical Center in Mindanao, Vicente Sotto Medical Center in Visayas, Philippine General Hospital in Manila as well as The Medical City in Pasig City have agreed to be testing sites for the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health's field study, Dr. Raul Destura, inventor of the detection kit, said in a briefing Thursday.

Destura said he will also reach out to Baguio General Hospital if it could participate in the clinical trial.

The scientist said the facilities were chosen based on their areas of expertise.

“Itong mga ito, may kanya kanyang eksperto sa infectious disease. Para iyong interpretation ng clinical data malinaw.”

The field validation study, which may be completed within two to three weeks, is one of the two pre-conditions set by the Food and Drug Administration for the kit to become commercially available. The first one was for the product to pass the laboratory performance testing. The developers passed the first test so the Food and Drug Administration issued them a certificate of exemption a few days ago.

The facilities need to conduct validation of 500 tests for COVID-19, which may start by Monday next week, Food and Drug Administration chief Rolando Domingo said Wednesday. A total of 1,000 kits will be divided among the site validators, Destura said.

All test results will be validated by a quality control officer and approved by a pathologist. Results will be released though email or they could be delivered to the institution which requested the test.

Initial diagnostic test results will then be sent to the Philippine Genome Center of the University of the Philippines so it could further confirm or refute the presence of COVID-19.

Right now, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine has to process every test, but the demand for testing does not match its capacity.

The RITM can conduct tests on 300 nasal and throat swabs a day, but the demand is around 600 to 700, according to the Department of Health. A patient will have to undergo tests at least three times. Aside from the confirmatory test, a COVID-19 patient must be tested twice before being discharged from the hospital.

The new kit is six times cheaper at P1,320 per test than the current kit imported by RITM, which costs P8,500 each.

The DOH has said it wants to purchase around 40,000 test kits.