As the government has only been able to test over 200,000 Filipinos out of 110 million for COVID-19, there is a need to ramp up our testing capabilities given the seriousness of the disease.
Luckily, some institutions are offering their facilities and staff to become COVID-19 laboratories and laboratory technicians, respectively. One of these is the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in Laguna.
On April 5, Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Rex Demafelis said that they can convert any of their existing Biosafety Level II laboratories into a COVID-19 molecular diagnostic laboratory. Eventually, the Immunology Laboratory of the National Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) was chosen.
Now, the UPLB administration says that the laboratory is on its final stages before being accredited by the Department of Health (DOH), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the World Health Organization (WHO) as a subnational testing center. According to a post on the official UPLB Facebook page, representatives from these organizations visited the laboratory last May 15 for assessment and validation processes.
After the validation of the facility, the last step before accreditation would be a proficiency test for all laboratory personnel who would be handling samples and interpreting results. Once they pass, the laboratory can already accept test kits and samples for laboratory analysis.
The testing center will be capable of conducting RT-PCR testing, the most accurate test to detect the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV2) in an individual.
Para sa Bayan
UPLB is truly living by its motto “Para sa Bayan” as they have also provided various hospitals with UPLB-developed testing booths. Professors and graduates from different engineering departments collaborated to create a three-section system test booth so exposure of health workers will be lessened. The test booth has physical barriers, lapel and speaker for easy communication between health workers, and proper ventilation, disinfection, and waste disposal systems.
Another test booth by the Tau Alpha—a fraternity in the university—has been developed in coordination with UPLB. They have committed to produce 100 testing booths for different hospitals combatting the pandemic.