Solon backs DU30 sound judgment on use of rapid antibody test

A congresswoman has lauded President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte for making a “sound judgment” on the use of rapid antibody test to boost the country’s testing capacity for coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).

“President Duterte has once again demonstrated sound judgment, which is essential and perhaps one of the most crucial assets required of a leader, especially during this time. I have no doubt that his sound judgment and strong leadership would help us all get through this unprecedented public health crisis,” said House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera.

Herrera said she fully supports the President’s order to purchase rapid antibody test kits to complement the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay test currently being used in the country to detect persons infected with COVID-19.

She noted that the use of both tests—antibody and PCR assay—is highly recommended by the World Bank (WB) for countries that imposed economically costly suppression measures while containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House Deputy Majority Leader insisted that widespread testing is crucial for society to be able to return to a sense of normalcy while still containing the spread of COVID-19.

“Experts say antibody testing could play a crucial role in easing coronavirus lockdowns around the world and reviving economies, so why not give it a try?” Herrera asked.

Herrera said the antibody testing provides a glimmer of hope for the country as it could be the way out of the enhance community quarantine, which imposed restrictions on the movement of around 53 million people in Luzon.

While a PCR assay test identifies people currently infected by the virus, the antibody test identifies those rendered immune after being infected by searching for COVID-19 specific antibodies.

“Through antibody tests, we can identify those who are already immune and can go back safely to work, and help reignite the economy,” Herrera pointed out.

She said this approach could be important at this time when there are no vaccines and other definitive therapies available.

The antibody test, she said, could also help with instigating a potential COVID-19 treatment known as convalescent plasma therapy, where antibodies are taken from a person who has survived the disease and transferred to someone sick.

In his televised address Monday night, President Duterte said he was clearing the way for concerned agencies to procure the COVID-19 antibody test kits “immediately.”

The Chief Executive said he would ask Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to talk to the people in charge so that the government could proceed to buy those kits at the soonest possible time.

Herrera said authorities may refer to the WB’s research and policy brief, entitled “How Two Tests Can Help Contain COVID-19 and Revive the Economy,” with the Philippines as an example.

“If PCR assay testing, together with tracing and isolation, helps reduce the duration of suppression measures by two weeks, and antibody testing allows one-fifth of the immune return to work early, the gain could be about 2 percent of national income, or about $8 billion for a country like the Philippines,” Herrera said, quoting the WB briefer.

The briefer suggested a number of ways on how to go about with the tests, including testing of targeted segments of the population.

According to the WB, the PCR assay should be used to test for possible infections, in order to facilitate contact tracing and targeted isolation efforts for countries in early stages of epidemic.

The antibody test, on the other hand, should be used to decide who can be allowed yo return to work, giving priority to professions and services that provide essential services, such as health care workers, and require greater human contact, the WB said.

“That is, workers who rank high on both ‘essential’ and ‘needed for proximity’ dimensions should be tested first,” it added.