By JULES VIVAS
On Feb. 4, the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) announced that it had developed a test kit for the coronavirus (COVID-19). Today, Mar. 10, the detection kit has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be utilized in testing samples of the disease in the country.
According to a Facebook post by the UP Office of the Student Regent, the FDA issued a certificate of exemption and will be allowing the use of the COVID-19 testing kit developed by UP-NIH to test samples of the coronavirus.
The national health product regulatory agency explains that this initiative supports the Code Red status raised by the Department of Health (DOH) last Saturday, and the recent declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte of a state of Public Health Emergency.
According to the lead scientist of the project, Raul Destura, the test kit was made two weeks after the release of the whole genome sequence of the virus, which was late January. The project was funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
UP Office of the Student Regent released a statement earlier today, saying, “We salute our scientists that continue to serve the people in the best way they can. We also urge the UP community and the public to call for immediate state funding for the mass production of the kits, once approved with finality, to aid in the resolving of the health crisis at hand.”
The test kit will help monitor the growing number of patients suspected of having contracted COVID-19, says FDA director general Rolando Enrique Domingo. Domingo stressed that the test kit is important for immediate diagnosis and monitoring, and will provide laboratories with technological reinforcement to accommodate the growing number of patients to be tested. “This will also be provide greater access to less costly diagnostic procedure,” he adds.
UP is still awaiting formal announcements from DOH. There are currently 24 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines.