The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) opens the call for research proposals on 1 April 2020. The DOST-PCHRD Executive Director, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, announced this last February 28, during the NCR and South Luzon Call Conference at the Hotel Jen, Pasay City. The first batch of research proposals are on Mental Health, aligned to the National Mental Health Research Agenda launched in October 2019, a response to the Mental Health Act of 2017 or RA 11036.
The call also prioritizes research on COVID-19, particularly diagnostics, possible drug candidates, and preventive programs as the risk for the disease continues to increase at a global level. According to Dr. Montoya, diagnostics research on COVID-19 is necessary to empower regional and local healthcare institutions to detect the virus at a point of care for immediate monitoring and treatment. As well, the DOST-PCHRD will support research on possible drug candidates for COVID-19 such as the virgin coconut oil. Equally important are preventive programs to strengthen policies and infrastructures to better cope with the challenges brought about by COVID-19.
In addition, researchers are also encouraged to submit proposals aligned to the Council’s research priorities, as follows: Functional Foods, OMICS Technology; Dengue and Other Arboviruses; Diagnostics; Biomedical Engineering & Health Technologies; ICT for Health; and Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation.
Three of the Philippine Council's for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) research programs and technologies were featured in the recent tech-media conference, DOST's Big 20 in 2020, held on 20 February 2020 at the Hotel Jen, Pasay City. The conference is a kickoff activity to a series of launching and engagements for the promotion of the Department's programs and technologies for the year 2020. For Biomedical Engineering and Health Technologies (BEHT), three projects were highlighted namely: ReliefVent, RxBox, and the Biotek M Dengue Aqua Kit. Currently, the technologies are focusing on commercialization and roll-out efforts. The ReliefVent, a portable ventilator, has been redesigned and enhanced to be deployed in the hospitals for field testing. Similarly, the RxBox is set to undergo re-testing prior to deployment in selected health centers nationwide. Meanwhile, the Manila HealthTek, Inc., manufacturing company of the Biotek M, continues to work with the DOST-PCHRD in rolling out the technology to more users in the provinces. To showcase related technologies by Filipino scientists, the DOST-PCHRD partnered with the De La Salle University in organizing the 1st Philippine National Biomedical Engineering Conference this 18 March 2020. Another highly-anticipated output is the world’s first anti-dengue herbal drug candidate being developed under the DOST-PCHRD Tuklas LunasTM research program. Years in the making, the drug candidate is currently undergoing Phase 1 of clinical studies, expected to end April 2020. Once trials are completed and the drug is proven safe and effective, the anti-dengue herbal drug will supply the demand for an affordable cure for dengue. Also featured in the BIG 20 in 2020 is the launching of the Philippine Genome Center satellite facility in the Visayas in April 2020. Under the PCHRD’s OMICS for Health research program, this facility aims to enhance the capabilities of the regions in the field of genomics research on health, agriculture as well as marine resources which are abundant in the Visayas, contributing to the overall development of the region. Aside from these programs, the public can look forward to more projects under the nine DOST-PCHRD research priorities. To know more about PCHRD-supported technologies, stay tuned to the DOST-PCHRD Facebook page (@dostpchrd), Twitter (@DOST_PCHRD), and website (pchrd.dost.gov.ph) for updates on official events and activities.
In view of the need to keep the public abreast with accurate and relevant information, the Department of Health wishes to provide the public with right information about the COVID-2019:
1. What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses causing a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more serious infections such as those caused by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus can also cause a variety of diseases in farm animals and domesticated pets.
2. What are the symptoms and possible complications of a coronavirus infection?
Common signs of coronavirus infection include flu-like and respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
3. Where did the novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) originate?
On 31 December 2019, a clustering of pneumonia cases of unknown etiology was reported in Wuhan, China. The outbreak was later determined to be caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-2019), a new coronavirus strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
4. How is the 2019-nCoV transmitted?
On January 24, 2020, the World Health Organization has confirmed human-to-human transmission largely in Wuhan City, China. However, there is not enough information yet to draw a definitive conclusion about the intensity of human-to-human transmission, full clinical features, and the original source of the outbreak.
Health experts are accelerating research to study the origins of the virus and how it is spreading. The virus has been differentiated from SARS and MERS, but its contagiousness and virulence is still being studied.
5. Is there a treatment and vaccine for the COVID-2019?
There is no specific treatment for any coronavirus including the COVID-2019. However, many of the symptoms can be treated based on the patient’s clinical conditions. Supportive care for infected persons can also be highly effective.
To date, there remains to be no vaccines for the new strain of coronavirus, hence, the existing Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccines (PCVs) are ineffective against COVID-2019.
6. What should you do if you are experiencing mild flu-like symptoms, but have not traveled to China recently or have not been in close contact with anyone who traveled to China?
In this case, there is no need to be tested for COVID-2019. Please consult at your nearest health facility as deemed necessary.
7. What should hospitals with suspected case/s of theCOVID-2019 do?
The designated infection control committee (ICC) of the hospital shall be responsible for the preliminary investigation of suspected cases. Once the case is classified as a person under investigation (PUI), he/she should be quarantined. The ICC should then notify the DOH Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units (RESU), who shall then report to the DOH Epidemiology Bureau.
Hospitals with PUIs in quarantine will also send the collected specimens (oropharyngeal and nasal swabs) to Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) for screening.
The DOH also encourages health workers to be vigilant and take extra precautionary measures when in contact with patients with acute respiratory infection, especially those with travel history to China. Finally, all health facilities must enhance their standard infection prevention and control practices, especially in their emergency departments.
8. What can the public do to prevent the spread of COVID-2019?
DOH advises the public to:
Practice frequent and proper handwashing,
Practice proper cough etiquette
Always bring a handkerchief/tissue
Cover mouth and nose using handkerchief/tissue (sleeves or crook of the elbow may also be used to cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing)
Move away from people when coughing
Do not spit
Throw away used tissues properly
Always wash your hands after sneezing or coughing
Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals
Ensure that food is well-cooked
Maintain a healthy lifestyle to mount up immunity
9. Who should be immediately investigated and tested for the COVID-2019 infection?
The following should be immediately investigated and tested for nCoV:
A person with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), fever and cough, and with at least one of the following:
history of travel to or lived in Wuhan in the 10-14 days prior to symptom onset;
A health worker who has been working in an environment where patients with severe acute respiratory infections are being cared for, without regard to place of residence or history of travel;
A person with acute respiratory infection (ARI) and fulfilling at least one of the following criteria within the 14 days prior to onset of illness:
Close contact with a confirmed or probable case
visit/work in a live animal market in Wuhan
Work/attend a health facility where patients with HAI-associated COVID-2019 reported.
10. Are there any travel restrictions to be observed?
There are no travel restrictions recommended as of the moment. Currently, the transmission potential and modes of transmission remain unclear. Hence, we advise those who will travel to affected areas to avoid crowded places, close contact with live or wild animals, and to observe handwashing and cough etiquette. DOH is in close coordination with the WHO and the China Center for Disease Control on developments and updates regarding travel advisories.
11. Where can the public get information about the COVID-2019?
The public can get information about the 2019-nCoV from the DOH’s and WHO’s official press releases, website, and official social media platforms. Please be wary of fake news and reports circulating online, and always verify the sources of your information.
12. What are the DOH and other concerned agencies doing to contain the situation?
The Department of Health is closely monitoring individuals who manifested signs of respiratory infection and had a history of travel to China, and is coordinating with WHO and China Center for Disease Control for updates. DOH is also enhancing its coronavirus laboratory testing capacity, hospital preparedness, rapid response, and its risk communication and information dissemination. Personal Protective Equipment are made available at the Bureau of Quarantine, Centers for Health Development, and DOH Hospitals.
The Bureau of Quarantine, meanwhile, is working with airlines and airport authorities to strengthen border surveillance, while the Epidemiology Bureau is heightening its community surveillance.
For more updates about the 2019 - nCov, click here.
This advisory is prompted by information received from the Department of Health. All information listed above are generated by the DoH.
The study, “Is the Philippines ready for HIV self-testing?” led by Dr. Emmanuel Baja of the Institute of Clinical Epidemiology of the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UPNIH), shows that people at risk of acquiring the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are open to the idea of self testing, especially with the confidentiality and convenience it can offer. Although there are concerns on the regulatory policies for selling and purchasing HIV self-testing kits and policies required for its implementation which may contradict Republic Act No. 8504 (HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998) which requires HIV testing to be conducted only by a medical technologist, the approach is viewed as a valuable addition to the HIV testing strategy in the country.
Recognizing the urgent need for early diagnosis and management as a preventive measure against HIV, the study aimed to analyze the prospective response of high-risk individuals to HIV self-testing (HIVST) as a potential approach in increasing the uptake of HIV testing services among Filipinos.
HIV Self Testing (HIVST) is an approach recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) "where a person collects his or her own specimen (oral fluid or blood) and then performs an HIV test and interprets the result, often in a private setting."
HIVST may be able to address the low uptake of HIV testing in the country, raise better awareness on HIV, encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own health and reach a wider range of high-risk groups.
The study was conducted as part of the HIV Gaming, Engaging, and Testing (HIV GET) Project of the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) in collaboration with the University of the Philippines-Manila under the Newton Agham Program of DOST-PCHRD and the Medical Research Council of the UK Government.