Today, April 20, the Manila Health Tek Lab, Inc. delivers the GENAMPLIFY™ Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) rRT-PCR test kit to the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH). After completing the validation studies, this is the manufacturer’s first batch of delivery, making UP-NIH the first health facility to officially use the Pinoy-made COVID-19 test kits under the Field Implementation funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD). The Field Implementation covers 26,000 tests and the total project cost is P53.2M.
Manila Health Tek, Inc. CEO Dr. Raul Destura expressed gratitude to DOST-PCHRD for funding the production of the test kits and its delivery to the different health facilities in the country.
“As we heal as one in fighting this global pandemic, we thank DOST for its unwavering support in the production of these test kits. We hope that we can serve more Filipinos through this endeavor and help in saving more lives against the scourge of COVID-19,” Dr. Destura said.
Destura said the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit has advantage against its foreign counterparts as it is packaged completely with an RNA extraction device and viral transport medium that is not found in other testing kits.
Aside from the complete testing kit package, Dr. Destura guarantees provision of full technical support from their team. Dr. Destura assured that their assistance doesn’t stop in delivering the test kits, laboratory personnel will be provided training on how to conduct the tests using the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit. In fact, his team already conducted training with the laboratory personnel of Philippine General Hospital, The Medical City Ortigas, Makati Medical Center and University of San Agustin, Iloilo City in collaboration with Western Visayas Medical Center and PGC Iloilo.
Destura also emphasized that GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can be used in any RT-PCR machine as the codes used to read the sample is open source. The complete package of the locally-made test kits inclusive of VAT costs only Php 1,828.40, almost four times cheaper compared to other kits in the international market which price may exceed Php 8,000.
Currently, Manila HealthTek's production capacity is at 6000 to 8000 tests per day, but they target to increase its capacity to produce 16,000 tests by May 1. Several institutions have availed of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit including: Philippine Genome Center, Bataan General Hospital, Araneta Foundation, Office of the Vice President, and the LGUs of Iloilo, Antipolo, and Pulilan.
"We at the UP Manila NIH are overwhelmed with gratitude for the support given by DOST and the PCHRD. This is a big step for our country to show that Filipinos can be self-sufficient like the other countries in addressing this pandemic." Dr Eva Cutiongco-de la Paz, NIH Executive Director
“Engaging in the research and development of biotechnology is one our country’s best investment in creating diagnostic tools,” says DOST Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “Through R&D, we have the opportunity to enable our local health sector to be independent, efficient, and be given access to low-cost solutions in managing infectious diseases like COVID-19. I call on our officials and health administrators to support our Pinoy-made test kits.”
DOST Secretary Fortunato T. De la Pena congratulated the PCHRD and the Manila Health tek, Inc. spinoff for responding immediately to the pandemic and coming up with a valuable diagnostic kit.
“The long wait for local test kits is over. We are glad that our very own technology is ready for distribution. With the deployment of the test kits, UP-NIH will increase its capacity to run more tests per day, as each unit of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can run 25 tests at once and provide results within two hours,” he said.
Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) Balik Scientist Program (BSP) Awardee, Dr. Adrian Joseph Buensalido is one of the many inspiring doctors serving as a frontline worker in the country’s battle against COVID-19. As an infectious disease and internal medicine specialist, he shared how he and his team manages the fight against the pandemic.
“The risk of getting COVID-19 is there every single moment of the day because our PPEs are not fool-proof. One small mistake and you can contaminate yourself. The fear is there, but you don’t dwell on it. You use an ounce of fear as fuel to keep your actions precise to prevent any misstep or contamination.”
Dr. Buensalido revealed that teamwork is what improves their day to day operations. He disclosed that doctors who have different specialties have volunteered to help the infectious disease specialists, pulmonologists, and critical care specialists to ease the burden.
The Balik Scientist recalled that one of his memorable experiences inside the hospital is when they took over an entire infectious disease load of one hospital between him and another colleague. “We were just constantly working and fighting illness continuously from 7am to 10-11pm at night, sleeping then waking up to fight again. Fighting and not allowing defeat until the reinforcements came will forever be etched in my memory - a badge of honor,” He said.
Thankfully, Dr. Buensalido and his team was already able to send home several patients and continues to do so. He explained that the patients recovered because aside from being obedient, they consulted early in their illness. By doing this, his team was able to intervene early by giving them antiviral medicine, supplements, along with close monitoring.
“I really think coming early for diagnosis and treatment made a difference, especially since their ages made them at very high risk for serious COVID-19 complications.”
Despite each victory, Dr. Buensalido also acknowledges the deficiencies that hospitals face to fully deliver safe and efficient medical care to patients. He explained that the hospital’s most crucial needs involve a steady supply of PPEs for consistent healthcare worker protection to ensure continuous quality care.
Dr. Buensalido also believes that the mobilization of non-hospital institutions to diagnose and take care of non-serious cases will unburden the emergency rooms and intensive care units of the hospitals. Ultimately, he thinks that the availability of the drugs to treat COVID-19 and its complications will definitely improve outcomes in terms of morbidity and mortality.
When asked about what drives him to keep serving the people, Dr. Buensalido answered, “I cannot find the words to call it right now, but the situation calls for all healthcare practitioners to step up or else COVID-19 will ravage our world with fear, disease and death. It is our time, and we will stand up to this bully of a disease.”
As of April 6, the country has lost seventeen doctors due to COVID-19. Despite this, Dr. Buensalido has this to say to his fellow frontliners, “We have the most important job right now. By coming to work and doing our jobs, we give people a chance to live and survive against this unseen enemy. Some of us may fall and some of us have already succumbed to COVID-19, but as long as we take our precautions, and we prevent the virus from making us sick, we will be able to help more patients, get more of them better, until eventually we beat COVID-19 once and for all.”
More than preparing emergency relief for their constituents, the Local Government Units (LGUs) play a crucial role in monitoring and disease surveillance of COVID-19 possible patients in their respective communities. LGUs can put in place contact tracing systems such as the TanodCOVID.
PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime C. Montoya emphasized the important role of LGUs in early detection and tracing of the disease. He stressed, “LGUs can help even more through the use of TanodCOVID. This can build a knowledge base about your locality so that prevention, management and treatment on COVID19 can be improved.”
By using TanodCOVID, people in the community will have means of reporting their symptoms to their local officials without the fear of discrimination. When used by an LGU, TanodCOVID will help the local officials and the Department of Health (DoH) in contact tracing of possible and suspected COVID-19 cases and decide on areas where mass testing must be administered. Interested LGUs should send a letter of intent to the project team to avail this service.
To use TanodCOVID, locals can send text messages to their LGU’s verified mobile number. Officials will then call concerned locals to verify the reports and ask for additional information which might help the DoH. Specifically, the TanodCOVID will enable LGUs to access report summaries, visualization, mobile numbers and addresses of those who reported symptoms. (Specific steps of reporting are discussed below).
Once TanodCOVID is adopted, Dr. Regina Estuar, Project Leader of TanodCOVID, ensures interested LGUs of their continuous technical support. She said, “We designed the system to empower locals in our strategies to prevent the spread of the infection. In turn, this will help our national agencies reduce the risk of virus transmission through strengthened contact tracing processes. Our team will help you in using TanodCOVID. Ito ang tugon ng LGU laban sa COVID19.”
DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina Guevara said, “The rapid development of research and technologies has been at the top of DOST’s priorities to fight this pandemic. With FASSSTER in place to assist our policymakers create evidence-based strategies, and TanodCOVID to engage our locals in self-reporting of symptoms for contact tracing, we are increasing our chances of saving more lives.”
Developed by Ateneo Center for Computing Competency and Research (ACCCRe) of Ateneo de Manila University in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Manila - National Telehealth Center (UP-NTHC) and the Department of Health-Epidemiology Bureau and funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), TanodCOVID is a self-reporting application included in the FASSSTER (Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler) a web-based disease surveillance platform that uses deterministic compartmental modeling.
Paano magreport ng sintomas sa TanodCOVID SMS Symptom Reporting System?
Mag-register sa serbisyo ng makapagreport ng nararamdamang sintomas at mabigyang atensyon ng inyong LGU.
I-report kung alin man sa mga sintomas na ito kasama ng tirahan:
a. Ubo b. Lagnat c. Hirap sa paghinga d. Nagtatae
Halimbawa ng text: REP J.P. Rizal, Nangka, Marikina, A, B, C, D
Free of charge ang mga mensahe at ang reply sa serbisyo. Kung mag-iba ang sintomas, o kung makatanggap ng reply, mag-text lamang muli.
“In order to win this battle against COVID-19, we have to know our enemy,” Dr. Josefina Isidro-Lapeña of the UP-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) says in the first installment of the webinar “WE Can!! Kuwentong Komunidad sa Kalusugan ukol sa COVID-19” last 17 April 2020.
With the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, Dr. Lapeña shared the best practices that will help prevent the spread of the virus and minimize its risk. She discussed a two-pronged approach in fighting COVID-19: 1) practicing proper hygiene to prevent the virus from coming in, and 2) boosting the immune system to build the body’s capacity to defeat the virus.
As a highly communicable disease, Dr. Lapeña described the immune system as our own soldier against COVID-19. To strengthen our capacity to fight the infection, she reiterated the importance of the following:
Balanced Diet.Following the “Pinggang Pinoy” guideline for each meal, as recommended by the DOST - Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), half of each plate should consist of glow foods (fruits, vegetables), 1/6 for grow foods while the remainder of the plate should be allocated for go foods.
Adequate Rest and Exercise.As recommended by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), an individual aged 18 to 60 years old should at least have 7 hours of sleep a day and 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Love, Care and Support.Despite the limited means of communication with loved ones, especially in times of quarantine, Dr. Lapeña highlighted that the feeling of constant support and care from loved ones can help boost an individual’s immune system. In the same way, she underscored that feelings of discrimination or isolation can also weaken the immune system.
Dr. Lapeña also reiterated the importance of regular and proper handwashing, disinfection of materials or clothes, and wearing face masks or face shields, among others.
By following Dr. Lapeña’s reminders, even our simple actions can contribute to defeating COVID-19. Her full presentation may be accessed here:bit.ly/kkkcovidpart1presentation.
This webinar series is hosted by the Ateneo de Manila University - Institute of Philippine Culture (ADMU-IPC) in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).
In the second installment of “Sustaining the Conversation on COVID-19: How Do We Cope? The eTURO Webinar Series on Engaging Communities and Networks (WE CaN!!)” webinar last 03 April organized by the Ateneo de Manila University - Institute of Philippine Culture (ADMU - IPC) in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan explained how the COVID-19 pandemic demands a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach.
He discussed how the involvement of every sector and individual is vital in defeating the pandemic through the implementation of cross-cutting strategies such as:
Implementing a national unified communication plan by targeting a change in behavior
Putting in place a nationwide monitoring and evaluation system for evidence-based policy making
Protecting health workers from being COVID-19 patients by providing enough supply of personal protective equipment (PPEs)
Increasing COVID-19 testing centers giving priority to epicenters of COVID-19
Increasing number of dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals - with designated ICU beds for COVID-19 patients who are senior citizens, those with comorbidities, severely ill and pregnant women
Shifting from a hospital centric response to an LGU-led or business sector-assisted community based systems:
Classification of each home according to capacity for quarantine (i.e. number of rooms). Every barangay should have a COVID-19 map located in the barangay hall.
Classification of provinces, cities or municipalities into those: at the epicenters, with less than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 or those with no confirmed cases at all at present
Classification of citizens according to risks: comorbidities, age-bracket, socio-economic class
Covering communication strategies, local government initiatives, monitoring and evaluation systems, Dr. Galvez Tan reiterates that the current situation demands proactive and creative initiatives. “We are in extraordinary times demanding extraordinary thinking and extraordinary action,” he says.
To download Dr. Galvez Tan’s full presentation, go to this link: bit.ly/COVID19andme.
The webinar series is hosted by the IPC as part of the eTuro project which aims to create an online catalog of eHealth and other health-related short courses, training opportunities, and graduate programs for healthcare professionals and health workers in the Philippines.
Replays and subsequent webinars are scheduled as follows: