UP Mindanao Looking to Build Free COVID-19 Testing Facility

All they need is the funding.

(SPOT.ph) Free COVID-19 tests may soon be possible at the University of the Philippines campus in Davao City—if their proposal for a diagnostic program is approved. As part of this project, the university is looking at building a P15 million biosafety molecular lab that can potentially handle up to 96 tests daily. Currently, there is only one facility accredited to handle testing for the COVID-19 disease in Mindanao: the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

This proposed lab will have a real-time polymerase chain reaction detection system—necessary for testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus—and other equipment, said the university in a statement published online. It will be housed in two container vans and will be designed according to the World Health Organization's standards for laboratories handling infectious materials. Monthly operational costs are pegged at P10.3 million—that's at the full capacity of 96 tests every day.

Check out a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) machine in use at the biotechnology laboratory of UP Mindanao. 
UP Mindanao / Facebook

"Testing asymptomatic individuals or COVID-19 carriers is necessary since they may show no symptoms but can freely transmit the disease if not regulated," Dr. May Anne Mata, University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao bioinformatics expert, noted in a study. If testing is done at a low rate, Mata projects around 3,000 individuals could be infected with the virus; if the testing rate is raised up to around 70% to 100%, the number of infected people will reach zero much faster.

Mata's study is yet to be published but will be used when presenting the proposed program to authorities. For now, "We are awaiting formal response from [the Department of Health] and the Davao Region COVID-19 Task Force to see how we can proceed,” said UP Mindanao Chancellor Dr. Larry Digal. The university has also been in touch with people from the private sector who may be willing to help procure the needed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) detection systems, which are "a costly investment," added Digal.

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Another diagnostic facility in Mindanao will help "prepare for the unprecedented peak of outbreak of the disease, " said Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Mindanao director Dr. Lyre Anni Murao, who authored the proposal. As of writing, three cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the Davao region; more than 7,000 are being monitored.

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