DOH urged to discourage rapid anti-body test for COVID-19

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Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez is urging the Department of Health (DOH) to discourage the use of rapid anti-body test (RAT) to screen people for new coronavirus infection.

In Resolution No. 1146, he said the DOH should instead promote the use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or swab test, which is the gold standard in Covid-19 testing.

He said RT-PCR shows the actual presence of the virus, while RAT “can only detect antibodies, which the body produces in response to an infectious agent such as a virus.”

He said despite RAT’s inaccuracy, many business establishments are still using it to test workers returning to work as the country reopens its economy.

Rodriguez cited statements by experts to support his call for the DOH to discourage rapid anti-body testing.

He quoted microbiologist-scientist Prof. Marilen Balolong of UP-Manila as saying RT-PCR is at least 97 percent accurate, while RAT’s reliability is 30 percent to 80 percent.

“There have been plenty of reports that these rapid tests produce false positive and false negative results,” he said.

He said pulmonary and critical care specialist Dr. Anna York Bondoc, a former congresswoman from Pampanga, has called on DOH to stop the use of RAT “because they are highly inaccurate.”

“As a result, many people are put in quarantine because of false positive results, while some who are infected with the new coronavirus but are cleared are spreading the disease,” Rodriguez said, quoting Bondoc.

He added that Bondoc “believes that wrong clinical decisions made with inaccurate results from rapid tests have been fueling the rise in Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila.

Rodriguez pointed out that RAT has been banned in many countries, including Australia, Dubai and India.

He said the Philippine College of Physicians and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) are opposed to rapid testing.

He said PGH Director Gerardo Legaspi is of the view that RAT “predicts only 20 percent of positive cases and misses out on 80 percent who are positive and who are walking around, thinking they are negative.”

He said the recently approved P165-billion Bayanihan 2 or We Recover as One bill includes P3 billion for personal protective equipment for health workers and a P10-billion standby fund for Covid-19 medicines and vaccine.

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