Monday, February 27, 2012

Coming up soon: a quicker way to detect dengue

By Luisa S. Lumioan
S&T Media Service

Now, dengue can be diagnosed at its early stage.  A locally-developed rapid test kit called Biotek-M has just made it possible. Through this new method, patients and their loved ones may now be eased from emotional worries and financial woes because of the quick dengue detection offered by Biotek-M.

Developed by experts from the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology-National Institutes of Health (IMBB-NIH) University of the Philippines Manila, is as accurate as the most popular but quite expensive dengue detection method called the Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR technology. Because it is locally-developed, Biotek-M is more affordable for the average Filipino.
Biotek-M uses isothermal PCR technology, a variation of the usual PCR, in which the nucleic acid is extracted from the blood and added to a mixture.  The mixture with the nucleic acid would change its color after one hour. A positive result would be indicated by green color and a negative result would be indicated by orange color.
Aside from the quick detection and less expensive test that benefit patients, Biotek-M also benefits doctors and hospitals, according to Dr. Raul V. Destura, director of IMBB-NIH and Biotek-M project leader. The development of Biotek-M is funded by the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) as part of DOST’s anti-dengue program.
Dr. Destura says that through Biiotek-M, doctors would make better decisions for their patients if they can confirm or rule out dengue the soonest possible time. Moreover, institutional units or hospitals would not have to admit every patient suspected of dengue.  This would translate to better delivery of health care to the patients because the hospital would have less admissions and therefore more time for staff to attend to patients and more hospital resources available for patients who need them the most.
As a whole, the rapid test kit would greatly impact public health care in terms of dengue management.
As of interview, Dr. Destura said that clinical validation of the research is on the process to comply with regulatory requirements before commercial release of Biotek-M.
Currently, Biotek-M is being used 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.
Biotek-M is a step closer to “our dream of bringing health-related technology closer to the people,” Dr. Destura said.  Dr. Destura’s team also believes that isothermal technology used in Biotek-M is a very good platform for all diagnostics of infectious diseases.
Diagnostics technology is one of the major thrusts of DOST-PCHRD and component of DOST’s anti-dengue program.
Currently used tests for detecting dengue leave the families with no choice but to spend much amount of money. One kind of test available in the country is the serological test which detects substances in the body that are associated with certain diseases.  This test is accurate but it cannot be administered at the onset, or the first five days, of fever.  If the patient arrives at the hospital within the first five days of fever, chances are, he would be admitted and have to pay for hospitalization until the test can be done.

The patient can opt for early detection within the first five days of the onset of fever but he would have to shell out at least P 7,000 to P 8,000 for the PCR test. This kind of test detects the nucleic acid, or the building block, of the organism of the virus.  Because it is highly targeted, PCR detects the virus 95 percent of the time.
Another way to detect the presence of dengue is through antigen detection. This method detects the presence of certain antibody in the patient’s system. However, because it has a very low sensitivity, a negative result does not automatically mean the absence of dengue virus.

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