JAKARTA, Indonesia 

Two local studies in the Philippines have confirmed detection of COVID-19 by using saliva as an alternative specimen, the country’s Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday.

A statement issued by the DOH stated that the studies carried out by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) have shown “growing” evidence that the saliva can be used as a specimen for testing.

“Recently there has been growing evidence on the potential of saliva as an alternative specimen for COVID-19 testing and the DOH recognizes the potential use of saliva as a specimen for SARS-CoV-2 detection through RT-PCR,” said the statement.

So far, the COVID-19 testing is conducted after extracting nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs.

According to the statement, both the studies being conducted separately by the RITM and the PRC are still in their initial stages.

The statement added that upon completion of both studies results will be assessed by the COVID-19 Laboratory Expert Panel (CLEP) and the Health Technology Assessment Council. Their recommendations will help DOH develop an evidence-based policy on the use of saliva as an alternative specimen for coronavirus testing.

The DOH noted that it also recognizes specimen pooling strategies as a prospect for greater COVID-19 testing efficiency by reducing turnaround time and saving on supplies.

The department has issued a memorandum to provide interim guidelines on the conduct of COVID-19 pooled testing based on the pooling protocols set by the Philippine Society of Pathologists, Inc., RITM, and DOH, according to the statement.

“Rest assured, the Department of Health will continue to support the conduct of studies and innovations that will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our country,” the statement added.

Earlier on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed readiness on the use of the saliva-based test for COVID-19 which recently guaranteed a 99% detection rate in the US, the country’s official news agency reported.

Duterte said the saliva-based test would be a good alternative to the more expensive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, according to Philippine News Agency.

“There’s a new type of test, Gordon [Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon] said swabbing saliva is 99% effective. Then let’s use that instead,” said the president.

*Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian-language service in Jakarta

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