An affordable dengue rapid test kit called Biotek-M may soon be available in the country.
According to Dr. Raul V. Destura, director of Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila, and leader of Biotek-M Project, the rapid test kit will greatly impact the public health care in terms of dengue management.
There is usually no problem if the patient comes in after five days of fever because serological test, or the test that detects the immune system’s response to an infection, is available and has high accuracy. The problem arises if the patient comes within zero to five days of fever, according to Dr. Destura.
Dr. Destura explained that currently there are two available tests for early detection.
The first one is the antigen detection which has varying sensitivity for as low as 17% to as high as 70%. In the Philippines, based on local studies, the average sensitivity is between 30-40%. A negative result from the test does not automatically mean that the patient does not have dengue.
The second one is polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology that detects nucleic acid. This is more powerful and has 95% accuracy but the main problem is that the cost is beyond the reach of an average Filipino family.
Biotek-M, developed through funding from Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), is projected to be more affordable than and as accurate as the existing PCR technology.
Biotek-M uses isothermal PCR technology. The nucleic acid from a blood sample is extracted and it is run in isothermal PCR. The mixture with the nucleic acid will turn green if positive for dengue, orange if negative.
Dr. Destura emphasized that once approved for release, Biotek-M’s impact would be felt in three levels.
The first level is on the family of the patient who need not wait for more than five days to know if the patient has dengue fever or spend a lot for early diagnosis. The family would only need to spend a minimal price to get the test done.
Second, the test would be able to help the doctors decide on ways to manage the patient in the early phase of dengue.
Third, the institutional unit or the hospital would not have to admit every patient suspected of dengue. This will translate to better delivery of health care to the patients because the hospital will have more staff and resources for the patients that need them the most.
Biotek-M would be released as soon as the researchers finish the clinical validation as part of complying with regulatory requirements.
Currently, it is rolled out in three hospitals namely Rizal Medical Center, National Children’s Hospital and Philippine Children’s Medical Center for field testing. “So far the results are promising,” said Dr. Destura.
Dr. Destura and his team also believe that isothermal technology used in Biotek-M is a very good platform for all diagnostics of infectious diseases.
“The dream of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology is to bring health-related technology closer to the Filipino people. We are trying to make it a reality. We are grateful for Department of Science and Technology for the support that it has provided us,” Dr. Destura said.