Medical expert urges use of affordable, virtually ‘free’ COVID 19 14-Day Test

March 30, 2020

Melody Mendoza Aguiba

A medical expert urged government and industries to adopt a COVID 19 testing system called “14-Day Test” that is totally free and yet has high degree of accuracy given a culture of trust among patients and healthcare professionals.

   Dr. Antonio Miguel L. Dans, chief of University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital-Adult Medicine, said the COVID 19 14-Day Test may be adopted by companies or government offices with high accuracy given a “culture of trust”  in its administration.

   It is a simple medical history test, long recognized in medical education as a real test. 

   It is used in as simply as asking a person his last 14-day history—whether he felt sick or had cough and colds. This test goes on top of determining one’s temperature to check for fever.

  At the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), this test is done on all that enters hospital premises. 

   The NKTI 14 Day Test also includes asking all, no exceptions, whether one has travelled elsewhere in the last 14 days, whether he has been exposed to someone infected with COVID 19, and if he has diarrhea.

   The only drawback to this test is if a person lies about his symptoms in the fear of circumstances. Maybe he may be asked not to go to work, therefore losing a salary, said Dans.

   This is why Dans said money should be poured into for instance, assuring workers they will continue to receive salary despite absence for treatment.

   “In pursuing 14 Day test, we need to build trust.  We need to define relations between employer and employee, I think it’s where we should put our money in.” Dans said in  a webinar of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

Dr. Antonio L. Dans assures Covid 19 14-Day Test can be accurate given culture of trust

   “We are spending P20 billion for tests.  But this is also a test.   This is a test that is taught in medical schools (over the time) they study medicine for 10 years,” said Dans.  “If we don’t expect people to admit their symptoms then we will have to do lab tests everyday.”

   Dans gave tips on how to encourage employee to employer trust in administering this test:

  • Assure employees that admission of symptoms will be beneficial to potential patients and their families and communities
  • Assure employees of sustained compensation in jobs
  • Incentivize absenteeism when one already feels sick
  • Assure employs of being supported with the proper treatment and financial aid through linkage with Philhealth

  Definitely, even these tests, one should continue to practice social distancing and make ti a habit to observe regular washing of hands, use of disinfectants, and personal hygiene.

Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD),  also reported during the webinar updates on these (PCHRD)-supported projects related to the control of COVID 19:

  • Bioactivity of lauric acid (virgin coconut oil) as adjunct therapy for COVID 19.  This is carried out by Ateneo de Manila University.  It is also being studied by Food and Nutrition Research Institute and University of the PhIlippines Manila. 
  • SANIPOD—tent-based sanitation booths with air showers to sanitize healthcare workers upon exit from Covid 19 patient wards
  • AMPLIFIED – also called micro PCR (polymerase chain reaction), it is a device for testing Covid 19.  It is more convenient to use than the regular PCR machine. It may be used at the point-of-care. Research on it is carried out by Ateneo Research Institute of Science and Engineering.
  • Big data analytics for quarantine policies implemented by Philippine Council for Industry Energy Emerging Technology Research & Development (PCIEERD). There are also nanotechnology-enhanced sanitizers, 3D printed face shields, and mobile artificial intelligence-enabled thermal scanners being produced by PCIEERD.
  • Repurposing of existing drugs, supplements, and other formulations
  • Studies on COVID 19 behavior (transmission or spread)
  • Diagnostics and kit validation
  • Artificial intelligence/Information Communication Technology-driven models and prediction studies

  The Philippines is part of the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trials and is implemented by the country’s National Institutes of Health.

   It involves studies on four repurposed antivirals—Remdesivir, Lopinvir, Interferon, and Chloroquine.  The country has 174 enrolled patients in this trial.

  While Philippines has limited capacity in  developing a vaccine, Montoya said the country is collaborating with other countries to also enable Philippines to readily access the vaccines.           

   With its involvement in vaccines’ clinical trials, Philippines will automatically have the scientific data for approval of the Food and Drug Administration.  It will speed up local commercialization of such vaccines.

   Clinical trials may be a later stage of vaccine development. Yet it is already too late for Philippines to venture into the early stages in COVID 19 vaccine development. This as other countries already have basic research on vaccine development.

   The collaborations in pre-clinical or clinical trials include those with China– SinoPharma-Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Beijing Institute and another project with Chinese Academy of Science-Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health.   The others are with Chinese-Taipei—Academia Sinica and  Adimmune Corp.

   Montoya and Dans urged citizens to examine reports regarding Covid 19 before accepting these as truth. Or many fake news will mislead people into believing for example a treatment for COVID 19 that is really useless or expensive.

   Dans said websites like the and run by the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases should be the reference of those who want to inquire on the latest and reliable information regarding COVID 19.

   “These days we should be more discerning.  Think and read.  There are news on Facebook saying ‘may na diskubre na test sa COVID19.’ Then you will find out they’re too expensive,” said Montoya.

   Test of accuracy of a news may include the following:

  • Reference to a reliable source of information of website
  • Absence of monetary interest (such as to sell a drug or test) of the source of information
  • Use of emotional words as persuasion tool. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

P5 million grant given to technology developers in health and industries in the “new normal”

My 25, 2020

By Melody Mendoza Aguiba

A P5 million grant is being extended by government to scientists and technology entrepreneurs who will develop products that will enhance health safety and operation efficiency  in industries in the “new normal.

   Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevarra,   Department of Science and Technology (DOST) undersecretary,  said the research program will develop health-related products and technologies under the Collaborative Research & Development to Leverage Philippine Economy (CRADLE) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

   The technologies will also involve those that will provide continuity to industrial and manufacturing operations without risking COVID 19 infection among the workforce.

   “We want to equip industries with the scientific and technology solutions for business in the new normal,” said Guevarra.  

   Eight priority sectors will be the focus of this research and development.

   The sectors are pharmaceuticals and drug development, natural products, medical devices, ICT (information communication technology), Electronics and Communication, sectors promoting import-substituting of products, metals, and minerals, innovative food industries, animal health and livestock, and plants and crops.

   Proposals will be accepted from June 1 to 30, 2020.

DOST calls on proposals for technology development for new normal in a press briefing led by DOST Secretary Fortunato T. De la Pena, DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevarra, and DOST Information Chief Richard Burgos

   Project implementation will begin on September 1.  By December 31, a prototype will have been developed for the product.   A minimum viable product will have been produced by March 31, 2020.  Pilot testing will begin after June 30, 2021. 

   Under CRADLE, a higher education institute (HEI) or research development institute (RDI) partners with a private company that puts in at least 20% equity for the venture. 

   The partnership commits to adopt for commercialization the research product.  DOST will provide funding for commercialization.

   DOST Secretary Fortunato T dela Pena also said during the virtual press briefing that DOST is also looking private sector partners that will distribute Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that DOST developed.

   One is a face mask that uses a water-repellent fabric as developed by DOST’s Philippine Technology Research Institute (PTRI).  Those who want to become distributors should abide by a technology transfer protocol.

   Another is a face shield developed using injection mold technology by Metals Industry Research and Development Center. It is now being produced at 5,000 pieces daily in partnership with a private company.

   The production of the PPEs also aims to be part of the Department of Health’s aim to produce PPEs in the millions for 2021.

   Dela Pena also announced the following during the virtual press briefing:

  1. DOST is also looking for partner-distributors of a natural ingredient-made soap developed by the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI). The soap uses natural products with unique natural scents and fragrances.
  2. DOST has developed a “respirator venturi valve” that enables two persons to share the use of the respirator.  It was developed by the Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI). This is to meet high need for the respirator that is in dearth especially in hospitals in rural areas.

   These are other products and technologies that DOST has developed:

  1. A test kit for COVID 19 that was approved for use on April 3 by the Food and Drug Administration.  It is in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and Manila Health Tech Corp.
  2. Sample collection booth—a specimen collection booth that ensures safety of health workers obtainig specimens for COVID testing. It was requested by the Department of HEalth and funded by DOST. It was developed by a startup firm as commissioned by the Philippine Council for Emerging Industries Energy Research and Development.
  3. Locally fabricated ventilators produced under the Ginhawa Project
  4. Goclean disinfecting chamber for cleaning devices and other materials used in hospitals that may become health hazard when unclean
  5. Rx Box Telemedicine portable equipment.  It may be used without direct contact between patients and health workers, avoiding COVID 19 infection.  It is a device determining patients’ temperature,  pulse rate, blood pressure, and ECG (electrocardiogram).
  6. Ready-to-eat arrozcaldo for health workers packed in food-safe vacuum pouches.
  7. A software that is a security device used in checkpoints in conducting rapid pass evaluation.  It was developed in partnership with the Philippine National Policy and Department of Information Communication Technology (DICT).  Melody Mendoza Aguiba

DOST calls on proposals for technology development for new normal in a press briefing led by DOST Secretary Fortunato T. De la Pena, Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevarra, DOST undersecretary, and DOST Information Chief Richard Burgos

Lockdown sacrifices pay off – COVID 19 cases flatten

Melody Mendoza Aguiba

   A tool called “Nowcasting” assures us that our sacrifices in ECQ (enhanced community quarantine)—popular as the lockdown—has already flattened the curve  for death cases and also infection cases of COVID 19.

   According to Epimetrics President John Q. Wong, without the ECQ, the number of Covid 19 cases would have risen dramatically particularly in Luzon.

The curve for COVID 19 cases could have risen steeply had it not been for the ECQ.

   The curve for the death rate has already flattened.  At the start of the outbreak, number of  cases was doubling from 10 cases to 20 cases per day. 

   With the ECQ, doubling rate is now slowing down to say every 7 days, the webinar led by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) indicated. The nowcasting is a project under

   Now death speed rate has remarkably reduced –already considered flat.

   Fortunately, what contributes to an even flatter curve of COVID 19 cases is the strengthening capacity of the Philippines’ health care system, according to Wong.

   Yet, based on data, there is still catching up to do to ensure that NCR (National Capital Region) beefs up capacity health care capacity as it is still in the danger zone. This is based on number of mechanical ventilators, ICU (intensive care unit), and isolation beds.

Luzon COVID 19 cases put it at danger zone with more than 75% use of isolation beds

   Considered danger zone is the use of 70 percent or more of number of isolation beds, ICU, and mechanical ventilators.

   In the case of Luzon, it is in danger zone with the use of isolation beds hitting more than 75%.

   Other regions in the country are in the safe zone (30 % or less utilization of ventilators, ICU, isolation beds) —Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), and Zamboanga provinces.

   In the warning zone (30% to 70% health facilities use) are Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley provinces, Cordillera Administrative Region, and Region 3 (Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan).

   Nowcasting uses actual data to determine actual number of cases and deaths in the past and predict what may happen based on these data.  The “now” indicates its being “actual” rather than based on assumptions (which is what is used in forecasting).   

Nowcasting is a project under
the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler or FASSSTER, a web-based disease surveillance platform that uses deterministic compartmental modeling. FASSSTER is 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).