Bicol laboratory resumes operation for COVID-19 testing


A diagnostic laboratory in Bicol that was forced to close after the onslaught of Typhoon Ambo has resumed operations today.

The Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BRDRL) resumed operation, May 26, 2020, for COVID-19 testing via Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR).

“BRDRL stopped its operations last May 16, 2020 after Typhoon Ambo damaged the exhaust duct at the roof of the laboratory,” the DOH Bicol said.

“The exhaust duct had been in use since 2013 by the BRDRL for its testing activities for other infectious diseases prior to the COVID19 pandemic,” it added.

According to the department, the exhaust duct maintains the negative pressure of the biosafety cabinet used for the inactivation and extraction of the samples collected prior to testing at the RT-PCR machine.

The negative pressure ensures that laboratory personnel working on live viruses are protected from infection.

“A staff from the Philippine Business for Social Progress, a non-government organization that supports infectious disease programs of the DOH CHD-Bicol came last May 20, 2020 to assess the damage and recommend work to be done on the exhaust duct. The exhaust duct is now fixed, hence, collected samples will no longer be re routed to the RITM for COVID19 testing,” the DOH said.

Meanwhile, the two new RT-PCR machines donated by LGU Legazpi City and a private donor have also been calibrated and installed by the supplier.

“However, the use of these machines cannot be maximized pending the arrival of the automated extracting machine bought by LGU Legazpi. As of now, the BRDRL does manual extraction which takes about three (3) to four (4) hours for a batch of 30 to 40 samples on a 2-shift duty. Two teams had been organized to do at least 90 to 100 tests per day from 30-50 tests per day done at the start of BRDRL COVID19 testing,” the Department noted..