DOST-PCHRD supports four projects to combat COVID-19

Recognizing the risks posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 towards public health, the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) supports the research and development of technologies and projects that will aid in the monitoring and management of the said infection:

1. GenAmplifyTM CoronaVirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) rRT-PCR Detection Kit - Developed by Dr. Raul Destura and his team from the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), the diagnostic kit aims to detect the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) with high specificity and efficiency through a one-step multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) platform. The locally-developed kit is projected to cost ₱1,320 per test, which is significantly cheaper than its foreign counterparts at ₱8,500 per test. The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a Certificate of Exemption for the said technology which provided the go signal for field testing. Manila HealthTek Inc., the first spin-off company from the University of the Philippines, will mass produce and distribute the kits to aid in the early diagnosis of COVID-19.

2. Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (FASSSTER) for Early Detection of Diseases - In partnership with the Department of Health (DOH) and DOST-PCHRD, the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) developed the FASSSTER application for visualizing spread of diseases, using data from the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) system, Electronic Medical Records, and SMS-based reports of primary care facilities. At present, it is used to create predictive models and visualize possible scenarios of outbreaks of Dengue, Typhoid Fever, and Measles, at specified time periods. The research team will enhance the system for use in COVID-19 surveillance and response, as it will help support planning and decision-making of the DOH, LGUs, and healthcare facilities.

3. Clinical Characteristics and Transmission Patterns of COVID-19 in Confirmed Cases and their Contacts in the Philippines - The study, which will be implemented by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), aims to determine the transmission patterns of COVID-19 to help prevent its further spread and support the DOH in crafting policies for the containment and prevention of COVID-19.

4. In-vitro Study on the Efficacy of Lauric Acid and its Derivatives against SARS-CoV-2 - In partnership with ADMU, the project aims to test whether certain coconut oil components can diminish or prevent the infectivity of SARS-CoV2, the causative virus of COVID-19. The project will focus first on the determination of the anti-viral properties of the compounds and results will be used for further studies.

Despite its relatively low mortality rate compared to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), to date COVID-19 has affected more than 100,000 people globally, including the Philippines. This led to the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to categorize the infection as a pandemic - which can be controlled with proper measures, as reiterated by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom.