Following the detection of the United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variant in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said that all inbound travelers who test positive for COVID-19 are being tested for the more infectious variant of the virus.
“There is this instruction already na lahat ng parating na pasahero na mag -positive ay isa-subject na natin sa genome sequencing (that all inbound passegers who test positive will undergo genome sequencing), “ Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing on Friday, January 15.
Prior to this, the country did only random genome sequencing of the samples of inbound passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.
“Actually, noong una ang ginagawa [ay] random. Pero of late, tinitingnan na nila lahat ng nagpositive, lahat ng papasok sa criteria na less than 30 ang CT (cycle threshold), pinadala na nila sequencing natin. Kaya nga nakita itong UK COVID-19 variant sa pasahero galing sa Dubai,” she said.
(Actually, what we were doing before was random. But of late, we checked all those who tested positive for COVID-19, those who have less than 30 CT value, they sent their specimen for sequencing. That’s why we were able to find out the UK COVID-19 variant in a passenger from Dubai.)
Asked if it would be taking samples from all who tested positive for the new virus, or just from inbound travelers who are COVID-19 positive, the DOH said: “We are prioritizing genomic sequencing of inbound international travelers who tested positive using RT-PCR. But PGC is expanding capacities to enable the shift to active biosurveillance to include sequencing of other RT-PCR positive samples.”
Genomic sequencing is the process of analyzing the virus sample taken from a diagnosed patient and comparing it with other cases to see whether those who tested positive for COVID-19 have the new variant.
Cycle threshold or CT value is the measure of the viral load of a patient which, Vergeire said, is being used by clinicians to further confirm the RT-PCR test of a positive case.
“Kapag ang CT value ay mataas kahit positive ka, nandiyan po ang ating (If the CT value is high even though you’re positive we have our) extra measure to further confirm if the patient is positive or has the disease,” she said.
The UK variant known as B117 – believed to be more infectious than the original version of the virus – was first detected in the United Kingdom in September 2020.
On Wednesday, January 13, the DOH said that it has started its weekly biogenomic surveillance or collection of samples from the vulnerable and at risk sectors that will undergo genome sequencing.
The DOH said last week that aside from the UK variant known as B117, it was also monitoring other variants of the virus found in South Africa (501Y.V2) and Malaysia (A701B). – Rappler.com