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Cheaper saliva test for COVID-19 a 'game changer,' says Project ARK leader


Project Antibody Rapid Test Kit (ARK), the private-sector-led initiative that aims to boost the country's capacity to identify and contain COVID-19, on Thursday said it working to bring to the Philippines the "antigen saliva test" for faster and cheaper detection of the coronavirus.

"Ginagawa ito sa Israel at sa San Francisco. Ito na ang ginagawa nila. Dudura ka lang sa isang kit at malalaman mo na kung may COVID ka. Again, it's not yet here but this is very promising," Project ARK's medical team leader Dr. Minguita Padilla said at the Laging Handa public briefing.

"Itong saliva test, puwedeng gawin araw-araw kasi $1 (around P50) lang yata. So, you can test before you go to school, before you go out, bago ka pumunta sa opisina. Game changer talaga ito kung maipasok sa Pilipinas," she added.

The antigen saliva test detects COVID-19 by tracing the presence of proteins that are found in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19.

What is currently being studied by health experts in the Philippines is the antigen test that involves swabbing, according to Padilla.

"Ang meron tayo ngayon sa gobyerno, sa Pilipinas na FDA approved at pinag-aaralan na ng gobyerno at ginagamit na sa maraming laboratoryo [ay] 'yung swab test na rin ng antigen," she said.

"Less sensitive lang po than PCR pero sinasabi ng maraming eksperto, kahit less sensitive siya nakukuha niya 'yung virus doon sa period ng time kung saan ka talagang infectious," she added.

Last month, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said it is eyeing the use of antigen test technology.

Aside from mulling the introduction of antigen tests in the Philippines, Padilla added that Project ARK recently launched pooled COVID-19 testing in selected local government units and some companies.

She added that the private-sector led initiative has been able to lower the cost of COVID-19 tests in its facilities.

"Ang Project Ark ho ay nagtayo ng 11 molecular biology labs for PCR testing na napababa rin ho namin ang presyo. Kahit hindi pooled, mga P1,900 lang ho," she said.

"Kung pooled it can go down to even lower, mga P350 each, so makakatulong ho ito," she added.

The Department of Health, meanwhile, said on Sunday that it has yet to finalize its Omnibus Guidelines on COVID-19 Testing. -MDM, GMA News