The second reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) molecular laboratory being built in Manila to address COVID-19 using a more high-tech machine that can perform more swab testing, is nearing completion and may be operational before the end of this month.
Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso said that once the laboratory is finished, the number of those who may be swab-tested at gold standard level through the RT-PCR machine will increase by about a thousand per day.
The RT-PCR machine is being utilized by the national government for confirmatory testing of coronavirus cases.
With the current laboratory, Domagoso said about 200 to 250 persons are being tested per day. It is located at the second floor of the Sta. Ana Hospital, which also houses the Manila Infectious Disease Control Center (MIDCC).
Dr. Grace Padilla, director of the Sta. Ana Hospital, said the new machines being installed in the second laboratory at the hospital’s ground floor will produce 90 tests per hour.
Padilla said the processes involved in the second laboratory will be more tedious than the previous one, since after the extraction of the virus, it will undergo amplification and other processes before finally being read by the PCR machine.
In the first lab, it was accredited as Xpert Xpress SARSCov2 testing lab where, Padilla said, the entire system is like a one-stop shop -- all that has to be done is to put the specimen in a cartridge and insert the cartridge into the machine, which will then read it.
The turnaround time in both laboratories, or the period within which the entire process and results may be known, will be the same, Padilla said.
Last September 6, Domagoso, Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna and Secretary to the Mayor Bernie Ang received a donation of two Sansure Extraction Machines. Each is a fully automated nucleic acid extraction system that can effectively help realize the goal of the mayor to test more residents daily using the most accurate confirmatory method via swabbing.
As he thanked the national government for the donations, Domagoso also expressed gratitude to the Ayala Foundation and its group of companies for offering to shoulder the costs for the building of the new laboratory, estimated at P7.7 million.
The laboratory is costly, he said, since aside from the needed equipment that have to be installed inside, even the ventilation or negative pressure has to be regulated in such a way as to ensure that the medical frontliners running it will be protected from infection.