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UP-developed COVID-19 test kits now being used at NIH

The University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) is now officially using the test kits it developed for the detection of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to microbiologist and infectious diseases expert Dr. Raul Destura.

"We are opening the first testing of the kits now at the NIH tomorrow (Monday) kasi logically 'yan naman ay NIH kits. Nakakahiya naman kung hindi namin sila unahin. It will be offered starting tomorrow (Monday) at the NIH po," Destura said in a press briefing of the Department of Health on Sunday.

"Dito sa Metro Manila may mga nag-order na po, committed to order tapos 'yung iba may mga purchase orders na pero ang nire-require lang namin sa kanila para hindi masayang yung kits, once they get the accreditation to run the test, we will be there in full technical support," he added.

The locally-developed test kits will also be available at DOH-certified laboratories nationwide, according to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

Further, Destura said these test kits do not differ in quality with those that are being procured abroad.

"Ang pagkakaiba lang, tinest siya based on the actual situation dito sa Pilipinas. Ito 'yung tinatawag na field validation," he added.

The UP-NIH developed the said polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based test kits in January immediately after the whole genome sequence of the virus was released.

Destura said the manufacturing facility of Manila HealthTek Inc. has been "all-out" in production since the start of April.

"We are currently manufacturing 6,000 to 8,000 tests per day and we’re hoping to increase it further to 16,000 tests per day by May 1," he said.

The Department of Health considers PCR-based tests as the "gold standard" in COVID-19 testing because of the reliability and accuracy of its results.

There are currently 17 DOH-accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country. — RSJ, GMA News