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MANILA, Jan 25 (Mabuhay) — The Department of Health has approved the use of saliva as an alternative specimen in COVID-19 tests in Philippine Red Cross laboratories, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

In a public briefing, Vergeire said the DOH allowed the PRC laboratories to conduct saliva testing after the humanitarian group presented the results its study on Wednesday.

“Wednesday, nakipagpanayam po tayo with the Philippines Red Cross. They presented their results dito po sa ating laboratory experts panel at napagkasunduan naman pong…it was agreed by the laboratory experts panel na puwede nang payagan,” she said.

“So immediately ibinigay po natin ang rekumendasyon na ‘to sa Secretary of Health. At pinarating na sa PRC na puwede nang gamitin ang saliva at alternative specimen,” she added.

Vergeire, however, noted that the DOH will wait for the validation test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) before allowing saliva test in other laboratories in the country.

“Ang condition po  ng lab expert, sa mga PRC laboratories  muna gagamitin dahil kailangan pa ho natin antayin ‘yung resulta naman po ng validation tests ng RITM para po magamit po ng iba nating laboratoryo sa bansa,” she added.

In a statement on Sunday, PRC said it is ready to roll out the saliva reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

The organization can now collect samples from different schools, companies, and other collection sites for faster testing, according to PRC.

“If more people would avail the saliva test, we can lower the cost in the future,” PRC chairman Richard said.

According to PRC, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III commended the organization in a letter for “finishing the pilot implementation in a short period of time and complying with the initial recommendations provided by the Department.”

Earlier, Vergeire said the DOH has been coordinating with the PRC for the use of the saliva tests in detecting COVID-19 since September.

On January 12, PRC said it will conduct COVID-19 tests using saliva as specimen to over 1,000 health workers in compliance with the DOH’s requirements for the full approval of the new testing method.

According to PRC, saliva testing is a faster, easier, and cheaper alternative to the swab test as it is simpler and requires less processing.

Earlier, Senator and PRC chairman Richard Gordon clarified that the saliva test for the detection of COVID-19 will still use the same RT-PCR technology that is being used for the swab test. (MNS)

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