DOH approves pool testing for COVID-19, but result of pilot study still pending

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — The Department of Health (DOH) has approved the use of pool testing to increase the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity.

DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Thursday that the department’s executive committee discussed and approved its use, while the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has noted the suggestion.

Vergeiere, however, said its implementation is pending with the DOH is still awaiting the result of a pilot study conducted by the Philippine Society of Pathologists for the proof of concept to back up the method’s feasibility.

Pool testing involves the use of an algorithm and grouping specimens together for testing.

In June, Vergeire said the COVID-19 Laboratory Expert panel is studying the possibility of using pool testing to increase testing capacity.

She added that the DOH Single Joint Research Ethics Board is also doing a review ahead of the pilot study at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. The department is also identifying other laboratories which may have the capacity to conduct such testing method.

Iloilo congresswoman and former health secretary Janette Garin earlier said she supports the use of this method since it is more efficient and is seen to improve the country’s testing and isolation procedures.

As of July 22, the total number of licensed laboratories in the country is 91, of which 68 are reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) laboratories, while 23 are GeneXpert laboratories.

A total of 1,110,902 unique individuals were tested with an average 24,695 tests done per day as of July 20.