What you need to know about the UP-developed coronavirus test kits

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How does the locally-developed test kit differ from the other rapid tests? (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines)— After weeks of field trials, the country's first locally-developed test kits for COVID-19 detection finally received the green light for public use.

The Food and Drug Administration last week issued a certificate of product registration for the GenAmplify™ COVID-19 rRT-PCR Detection Kit, the low-cost test kit invented by a team of scientists from the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health, the Philippine Genome Center, and The Manila HealthTek Inc.

READ: How a team of Filipino scientists developed a COVID-19 test kit

The product— just like the other approved imported test kits— is seen to expedite the process and turnaround period for COVID-19 testing in the Philippines, which has recorded over 3,600 cases of the disease as of Monday.

But how does the local-made test kit differ from the other rapid test kits and previous tests?

CNN Philippines spoke to the inventor of the product, Dr. Raul Destura, Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center.

Real time PCR technology

The product features a PCR technology, which identifies the Ribonucleic acid (RNA) of the virus in a rapid speed until it is detected by a computer.

Batch test results out in a day

While the PCR method can only take about an hour, Destura said laboratory officials are likely to conduct batch testing— to save cost and operation time.

"So even if it finishes in an hour and a half, if you do batch testing, it will probably take you a day to get the results," Destura told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Currently, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa, which conducts the most number of COVID-19 tests in the country, also requires a 24 to 48-hour window for the process.

Baseline cost is ₱1,320, but can reach ₱3,500 with hospital processing

The baseline value for the product is at ₱1,320. However, Destura said this could increase pending additional processing and operational costs of hospitals.

"When we did our calculation, if they're going to make it really affordable to everybody, it will probably cost in an area between ₱2,000, if they would add additional costs to the processing and all of the things that you need around the patients, to around ₱3,500," he said.

Not exempted from false positives and negatives

Just like other technologies, the lead scientist said the product may still be subject to false positive and negative tests.

Destura said there are three scenarios where one test can get a "false negative" result: (1) If the samples were poorly collected; (2) If there is not enough virus in the sample; and (3) If processing is incorrect.

A false positive result can meanwhile be attributed to a possible contamination of a sample from one that previously tested positive, he added.

"Good laboratory practice is very crucial in reducing false positivity and false negativity in terms of this technology," Destura noted.

26,000 test kits and counting

Destura said there are 26,000 test available, but manufacturers are also seeking to increase the number to meet the country's demand. He added their current manufacturing runs from 8,000 to 10,000 tests per day.

One kit equals 20 tests

Destura said the team stuck with the term "tests" to refer to the product, so as to avoid confusion with the numbers. He revealed that one kit contains about 20 tests in a box.