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DOH: Additional reagents for genome sequencing pending release from Customs

/ 03:06 PM February 01, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Additional reagents needed in conducting genome sequencing to detect new coronavirus variants have already arrived in the country and are pending release from the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

“The procurements [for reagents] are here already. We are just having them out from Customs. The reagents came last night,” Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press briefing.

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According to Vergeire, the Philippine Genome Center (PCG) can normally process about 750 samples for genome sequencing a week but this was lowered to only 48 samples following a delay in supply last week.

“The big machine was put to stop because we do not have enough reagents. Therefore UP-NIH (University of the Philippines – National Institutes of Health) together with PGC tried to set up this smaller machine where it can only run 48 samples per process. Right now, we are using that,” she said.

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Vergeire said the DOH is fast-tracking the release of the reagents from the BOC so that the PGC can start processing 750 samples again this week.

“But again, the global shortage has affected this process,” she also said.

For this Monday, the PGC will again conduct genome sequencing for 48 samples from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and other parts of the country. To recall, 12 cases of the more infectious variant, or the B117 variant that was first reported in the United Kingdom, have been detected from 12 people in Bontoc, Mountain Province, and from an individual in La Trinidad, Benguet.

The Philippines procures reagents for genome sequencing from Singapore and the United States, according to Vergeire.

To address the shortage, she said that the DOH, upon discussion with the PGC and the UP-NIH, has decided to avail of advance procurement for the reagents.

“So instead of just procuring two or three months of supply, we are now going to procure or to have this order for about six months,” she noted.

Additional budget

Vergeire said the DOH has also requested from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) an additional P362 million budget this year for genome sequencing.

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“We requested a total of P362 million. This was [from] consolidated requirements coming from UP-NIH, PGC, and also the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine),” she said.

The amount, according to the health official, is necessary to sustain the requirements of genome sequencing in the country for the rest of the year, including reagents, testing kits, and other logistical requirements.

She explained that the DOH had to request an additional budget since funds for genome sequencing was not included in the department’s 2021 budget.

“The DBM committed that they would look for funds for this. This was raised in the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and IATF has the support for this provision of budget for these three institutions for us to sustain the genome sequencing process,” Vergeire added.

The country has so far recorded 17 cases of the B117 variant of SARS-CoV-2.

JE

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
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TAGS: coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Department of Health, genome sequencing, reagents
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