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LGUs opting for cheaper, faster, more reliable antigen tests, says diagnostics expert

11:46 AM January 30, 2021

MANILA — A testing advocate and diagnostics expert said Saturday that more local government units are turning to faster, cheaper and more reliable antigen tests to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Jose Miguel Vergara, former Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) director and current chief medical officer of LabX Corporation, said his company has received more orders and inquiries for antigen test kits that boast of 96 percent sensitivity/accuracy and almost 100 percent specificity. LabX is the official Philippine distributor of Sofia 2 manufactured by US-based Quidel Corporation as well as FINA and AgILA antigen tests made by Lansion Biotechnology Co. Ltd (Lansion) of China.

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He said these diagnostic kits use Dry Fluorescence Immunoassay technology or machines with laser analyzers to detect the COVID-19 virus. “Results are out in as short as 15 minutes and at almost half the cost of RT-PCR or Reverse Transciption Polymerase Chain Reaction tests,” he said.

Vergara said that based on Department of Health Circular 2020-0397, antigen kits may be procured and /or used by government agencies if they meet three important criteria: 1) approval by the Philippine Food and Drugs Administration; 2) must meet minimum specifications like 80 percent sensitivity and 97 percent specificity; and validation by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine or listing/recognition by the WHO-Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND).

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“FINA and AgILA passed all these requirements. Both have FDA approval; have 96 percent sensitivity and 99 percent specificity; and are included in the WHO-FIND list. Thus, we’re fully confident in supplying our antigen tests to help meet government’s massive testing requirements,” he said.

Currently, Sofia 2, FINA, and AgILA rapid antigen tests are being used by Malacanang and the Presidential Security Group, the House of Representatives, and a growing number of LGUs and private firms. Among the progressive LGUs incorporating the tests in their safety protocols are Coron, Busuanga, and El Nido in Palawan, Baguio, Aklan, Tacloban, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Tarlac and others.

Earlier, testing czar Vivencio Dizon stressed the importance of finding cheaper testing mechanisms so as not to put a strain on government coffers. He pointed to antigen testing as a more viable alternative. “Ang antigen testing, hindi po oras ang binibilang. Minuto lang, lumalabas na ang resulta. At mura pa,” he stressed during a recent media forum.

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