Red Cross launches Covid-19 saliva testing

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has recently launched the Covid-19 RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test using saliva after the Department of Health (DOH) approved it.

During the launch, PRC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Senator Richard Gordon said the use of saliva for testing is a cheaper and faster method that would allow the government to save millions in Covid-19 testing.

“The Philippine Red Cross has always been an active auxiliary partner of government, and we follow the fundamental principles which include that we are independent and that we also vow to alleviate human suffering and uplift human dignity. Today represents a milestone in the sense that we are democratizing the testing. We lowered the price, we created a system. The ingenuity of Filipinos surfaced in the development of this test),” Gordon said during the launch.

The Covid-19 saliva testing costs PHP2,000, or P1,800 cheaper than nasopharyngeal swab testing. Gordon said individuals who want to undergo Covid-19 saliva testing should not eat, gargle or smoke at least half an hour before the test. The processing time of saliva testing is shorter than the swab testing because it takes only three to four hours.

Gordon said those who will undergo Covid-19 saliva testing will have to spit inside a sterile one-milliliter vial with the use of a funnel which will be sealed and documented for results, and those interested to book a Covid-19 saliva testing with the PRC can do so online.

National Task Force Against Covid-19 adviser Ted Herbosa said the saliva testing is still a PCR test but only involves singular sampling method. He expressed hope the saliva testing will be available in all Covid-19 testing laboratories and not just at the PRC because it has many advantages compared to the swab testing.

“It’s faster if I have a room full of people, say about a hundred of people I need to test, everybody could just spit all at the same time and so I can collect in a shorter period of time than line up all those people with swabbers,” he noted.

National Action Plan Against Covid-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon said the study on the use of saliva as a specimen for Covid-19 testing has been discussed since September last year.

“We are thankful we can now use the technology to expand our testing capacity, allow more of our men and women to get tested, and also tremendously reduce the cost of testing,” Dizon said.

DOH Assistant Secretary Elmer Punzalan, for his part, said the Covid-19 saliva testing is a game-changer in the country’s fight against the pandemic since “it is cheaper, its process is easy to perform and the results are released in a short time.”