A healthcare worker seals a swab sample after testing vendors at Pritil Public Market in Tondo, Manila, October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) said on Monday that the saliva reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for COVID-19 was as accurate as swab testing.

In a media briefing, the PRC saliva test lead researcher Michael Tee said that the testing method was at par with the swab test as it was 98.23% accurate.

“Ibig sabihin kung may 100 tayong tinest, kung positive sa saliva, positive din ang swab. Kung negative ang saliva, negative din ang swab, 98% of the time,” Tee explained.

He added that over 1,000 samples were used during the pilot study to determine the accuracy of the saliva test.

The PRC on Monday publicly launched the saliva RT-PCR test after getting the approval of the Department of Health (DOH).

PRC Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon said the saliva test can be availed through online booking via the PRC website.

He added that the turnaround time for the saliva test was three to 11 hours depending on the samples being tested.

A saliva test currently costs P2,000, but Gordon said it may become cheaper if more people got tested.

“‘Pag marami na nagte-test, papatunayan ko na kaya natin babaan ‘yan dahil bawas na tayo sa PPE,” he said.

Meanwhile, testing czar Vince Dizon said under the approval of the DOH, the saliva test should be covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Over the weekend, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH had approved the use of saliva as an alternative specimen in COVID-19 tests in PRC laboratories.

Vergeire, however, noted that the DOH will wait for the validation test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine before allowing saliva tests in other laboratories in the country.

Earlier, PRC molecular laboratory head Dr. Paulyn Ubial said saliva testing was also used in the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The PRC said this COVID-19 testing method was a faster, easier, and cheaper alternative to the swab testing.

Gordon earlier said the saliva test for the detection of COVID-19 will still use the same RT-PCR technology that is being used for the swab test. — DVM, GMA News