Isko: Manila using more efficient serological tests

Isko Moreno
Mayor Isko Moreno explains where blood samples are taken at the free COVID test centers.Photo by JERRY S. TAN

“HINDI po rapid test ang ginagawa natin.  Ito ay ‘serology anti-body lab testing’ na mas episyente.”

This clarification was made by Manila Mayor Isko Moreno in his public live broadcast, to address erroneous reports and notions that the newly-established free, drive-thru and walk-in COVID testing centers in the city are actually using rapid test kits, so that those getting tested should not feel at ease.

According to the mayor, the blood samples taken from those availing of the free COVID testing are subjected to serological tests, which, Moreno said citing his personal research, are defined as blood tests that look for antibodies in the blood as well as diagnose various disease condititons.

While there are various types of laboratory techniques, Moreno said that the one being utilized by the city falls under the highest category of laboratory  testing, using the CLIA or clinical laboratory improvement amendments.

“Why are we using this? It is because this is more sensitive and specific than rapid test. Mabisa rin ang rapid test kaya lamang, may natagpuan tayong mas mabisa. We also must continue the WHO or DOH protocol gold standard of testing, no question about that,” Moreno said.

Moreno further explained that just like in the case of swab test where the samples taken from the nose and mouth are put in a machine for testing, the drive-thru and walk-in centers on the other hand, collect blood samples and these are also tested using a machine.  In the case of swabbing, the machine used is reverse time-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) while the drive-thru and walk-in centers make use of the ‘Architect i1000 SR’ machines purchased by the city government from Abbott, which Moreno said, is a reputable, multinational company known for making such machines.

These machines, he stressed, are high-end, with 99.6 percent specificity and 100 percent sensitivity, adding that they are also being used in known and expensive private hospitals and can aid in the diagnosis of infection or check for past infection. The said machines also do away with the ‘false positive’ and ‘false negative’ that sometimes result from using rapid test kits.

“Dahil pa-delikado nang pa-delikado ang sitwasyon, dapat pa-improve din nang pa-improve at mas efficient ang approach,” Moreno said.

He added that the machines purchased by the local government for the city-run hospitals will be useful even after the pandemic, since they can also be used for other deadly diseases like human immune virus or HIV, hepatitis, thyroid, cardiac and cancer markers, among others.

“’Yung ginagamit para sa mayayaman, pareho na ngayon ng ginagamit para sa mahihirap.  Ito ‘yung tinatawag na ‘value for money’ kaya hindi ako mahihiya manghingi sa mga nakikita kong may kakayanan para itulong sa mamamayan,” the mayor said.

Moreno and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna recently opened drive-thru COVID testing centers in front of the Bonifacio Shrine near City Hall and along Independence Road fronting Quirino Grandstand that can test 200 and 700 daily, respectively.

This they followed up with the opening of two walk-in centers at the Ospital ng Sampaloc and Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center each of which can test at least 100 individuals. These centers operate on weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.