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DOH Approval for COVID-19 Saliva Test Now Being Sought

The saliva test is a cheaper option compared to the RT-PCR test.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, several different tests have been developed to detect the presence of the virus in a person’s system.

The most common one, the antibody test, makes use of blood samples and gives results the fastest. But while it is most efficient, this type of test doesn’t determine active infection. (Read: What’s the difference between the PCR and the Rapid Test Kits?)

On the other hand, the Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, also known as the swab test, is most popular among Filipinos. But while it gives the most accurate results and detects active infection, the RT-PCR test is highly invasive as it takes samples from the nasal cavities or the throat. (Read: How Effective is China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 Vaccine?)

The uncomfortable feeling of having a swab stick inserted far into one’s nasal cavity and throat is what makes some people fear getting the RT-PCR test. Of course, the fact that the test is more expensive than the antibody test is a plus.

The Philippine Red Cross conducts its Saliva RT-PCR Test pilot at the PRC headquarters in Mandaluyong City on January 12, 2021, simultaneously with 15 DOH hospitals. The pilot testing is in compliance with the DOH requirements to secure full approval of the new alternative testing method. (Photo from Mark Demayo / ABS-CBN News)

COVID-19 Saliva Test

To encourage more people to get tested for the virus, health experts have been looking into other ways of testing individuals that are less invasive and uncomfortable. In fact, just recently, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has already begun their pilot testing for the COVID-19 saliva test to 1,000 individuals.

The saliva test is the less invasive option compared to the swab test as it only needs a saliva sample from the patient. The test is also relatively cheaper than the RT-PCR test, as it only costs around P2,000, compared to the swab test which can cost up to P4,000. (Read: Popes Francis, Benedict XVI Receive First Dose of COVID Vaccine)

“I think it’s a game-changer. We used to have difficulty getting swabbed. They get into our nose, our throat. Now it’s less invasive,” said PRC chairperson and senator Richard Gordon.

While the saliva test is yet to be approved by the Department of Health (DOH), Dr. Paulyn Ubial, PRC molecular laboratories head, says the testing results will now be forwarded to the DOH to hopefully get approval for its use.

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