Red Cross hopes for gov't nod in using saliva tests to detect COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) — The Philippine Red Cross on Friday said it has submitted the encouraging results from its trials on using saliva test as a faster and cheaper alternative to detecting coronavirus infections.

It said the saliva test met the standards when compared to results from RT-PCR tests, which remains the "gold standard" in tracing infections.

PRC said the test, using a person's saliva specimen, will be less invasive and painful compared to swabbing the nose or throat for the RT-PCR test. It said this mode of testing will also be more economical since the specimen collector does not need to wear protective gear — making the cost cheaper than the RT-PCR. It added that saliva specimen also has fewer requirements when it comes to storage.

"The best news is that saliva tests are cheaper by at least half the price since there is a cheaper labor cost, few equipment, and reagents to be used," PRC Chairman Senator Richard Gordon said.

Gordon on Friday pegged the saliva test cost to range from P1,500 to P2,500. Red Cross charges P3,500 per swab test.

Saliva test trial

PRC said it partnered with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of the Philippines to determine the saliva test's accuracy.

It said Dr. Diane Ranoa, a US-based Filipino doctor working at UIUC, helped in the development of the saliva test. After the study protocol passed the requirements, it was forwarded to the UP Research Board for ethics review, clearance and approval.

PRC added that for the test to be given the go-signal for nationwide use, the Department of Health's clinical laboratory panel needs to oversee its effectivity in two instances.

"The saliva test passed twice. It is now under the health technologist-panel of DOH," PRC said in a statement.