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DOH issues guidelines on saliva-based RT-PCR testing

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said only licensed coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) laboratories certified by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are allowed to perform saliva-based Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing, following the issuance of guidelines on its use and administration.

In a statement, the DOH noted that the guidelines under Department Memorandum (DM) No. 2021-0161 aim to expand the country’s testing capacity and ensuring immediate and efficient implementation of PDITR (prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and reintegration) strategies.

“Point-of-care clinics, specimen collecting facilities, and disease reporting units can perform saliva specimen collection, provided that the specimen collectors have undergone training from the referral licensed Covid-19 laboratory certified to perform saliva testing,” the DOH said.

“Laboratories or facilities may only use test kits which have passed the performance validation conducted by the RITM or other RITM-recognized laboratories, and have a special certification from the Food and Drug Administration,” it added.

The agency also reiterated that only trained saliva specimen collectors should administer the test and only medical doctors should interpret the results of these tests as results need to be correlated with the overall clinical and epidemiological context of the patient.

Through the guidelines, the public is advised that morning saliva is preferred as a specimen due to higher viral load but this should not prevent specimen collection at any other time; and proper collection procedure should also be strictly observed where patients should not eat, drink, brush their teeth, use mouthwash or smoke for at least 30 minutes before sample collection.
“Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab specimens remain as the standard specimen for the diagnosis of COVID-19 through RT-PCR testing,” the DOH said.

“The conduct of saliva tests should only be done on certain conditions and are deemed valid when such conditions are met,” it added. Ma. Teresa Montemayor / PNA –

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