MANILA -- The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) has provided some PHP5 million financial support for the African swine fever (ASF) test kit verification project of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) and the Bureau of Agricultural Industry (BAI), and has been providing guidance in the management and monitoring of research activities and evaluation of its outputs.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Thursday, PCAARRD executive director Reynaldo Ebora said the collection of samples from farms affected with ASF started in July, and the testing of the nano biosensor to verify its virus detection rate is ongoing.

"Verification of initial research results generated from the laboratory have to be verified in the field using a bigger sample size of not less than 1,200 samples taken from ASF- affected areas to ascertain its detection rate before offering it for use by the industry," Ebora said.

He added that for diagnostic kits used to detect infectious diseases, a high detection rate of about 90 percent is critical in making decisions whether to allow or not the movement of animals and/or utilization of their products.

The locally developed kit, he said, can detect the ASF virus from the samples being tested. Testing is accomplished by dropping a sample (such as blood, saliva swab, feces, or spleen) in a tube containing the premixed solution, which is then heated using a temperature-controlled heat block.

Results may be observed through a color change from wine-red to gray or bluish-gray. Testing will take about an hour and a half from sample collection to observation of results.

According to Ebora, the initial results of the test showed a positivity rate of 75.6 percent (31 out of 41 samples) in blood samples, which he said is comparable to the results from the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

Further, the nano biosensor was capable of detecting the ASF virus from the feces of infected animals with a 75 percent detection rate compared to the 62.5 percent in RT-PCR.

"This means the locally developed test kit was able to detect the presence of the ASF virus in 31 of the 41 blood samples tested, which is comparable to the RT-PCR, which is a tool that detects the ribonucleic acid (RNA) in viruses," he said.

Ebora continued that the nano biosensor detects the ASF virus from 75 percent of the fecal samples tested, which is higher than the 62.5 percent of the RT-PCR.

"The RT-PCR used in the detection of viruses that cause diseases in animals is the same as that used for disease diagnosis in humans," he said.

Significant results, which include the ASF virus genome sequence, and high detection rate of the virus from samples taken from surface saliva swabs and feces, are expected by the first quarter of 2021, Ebora said.

Meanwhile, Ebora shared that based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the swine industry contributes 14 percent of the total value of products from the country's agriculture sector. (PNA)