DOST- PCHRD Diagnostics Program: Technologies for early detection of diseases

Did you know that 70 percent of health care decision-making are based on diagnostic test results? That’s why accurate, reliable, and effective diagnostic tools are crucial in order to improve patient care, protect patient’s health, and reduce the country’s cost of health care spending.

Recognizing the impact of diagnostic tools in healthcare, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCHRD) supports the development of local technologies for the early detection of diseases. Under the Diagnostics Program, the Council prioritizes to address 13 communicable and non-communicable diseases such as HIV AIDS, neglected tropical diseases, emerging infectious diseases, tuberculosis, hepatitis, metabolic diseases, autoimmune diseases, diseases of the cardiovascular, among others.

From 2014 to 2018, the Council has invested more than 32.2 million pesos for research and development (R and D) under this priority area.

The most successful diagnostic test kit developed is the Biotek-M Dengue Aqua Kit. This is a rapid diagnostic kit to confirm dengue infection in the first 0-5 days of illness, and the results would be known within an hour. Dr. Raul Destura of the University of the Philippines Manila led the development of this kit and spearheads the Manila HealthTek Inc., the spin-off company which produces and sells Biotek- M Kit in the market. In 2017-2018, more than 600 units of Biotek-M Kit were sold.

Three to five years from now, the DOST-PCHRD looks forward to seeing the following diagnostics kits under study to become available in the market.

The University of Manila’s low-cost point-of-care diagnostics for simultaneous detection of Paragonimus westermani and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Because pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) and paragonimiasis share similar symptoms, development of a more accurate and sensitive diagnostic test kit is important for disease surveillance and proper patient care.

The development of an affordable, accurate, near point-of-care diagnostic kit or platform for rapid detection of HIV resistance to Lamivudine and other retrovirals. Lamivudine is an antiretroviral medication used to treat HIV AIDS and chronic Hepatitis B. Long-term use of lamivudine was observed to lead to emergence of resistant HIV and Hepatitis B virus. For people living with HIV, detection of resistant virus is important to be able to help doctors determine the appropriate medication thus, promote better disease management.

Given the complicated nature of the process of diagnosing diseases, technology is key in overcoming challenges that surround precision diagnosis. The DOST-PCHRD will continue to support Filipino researchers to address the lack of rapid and cost-effective diagnostic devices to make Filipino lives better.