Project ARK all set to conduct pilot pooled RT-PCR tests for market vendors, public transport drivers

The private sector-led Project ARK (Antibody Rapid Test Kit) is awaiting the green light from the Department of Health (DOH) before it starts its pilot implementation of the pooled reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing among public market vendors and transport drivers in Metro Manila.


This was disclosed by Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin, also ARK-PCR Private Sector Chief Implementer, after the Philippine Society of Pathologists Inc. (PSP) and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) presented the preliminary results of their research study on pooled testing to the DOH.

"The pilot implementation will cover the public market vendors and drivers in the NCR. We are just awaiting the go signal from DOH," Garin said in a Viber message.

She said they expect that the DOH will issue the necessary guidelines on pooled testing.

But, she said, that "even without the guidelines, we can proceed with the pilot implementation to help the DOH craft guidelines for cascading."

Garin said that while waiting for the DOH approval, they are finalizing the details on the pilot implementation of the RT-PCR testing in the National Capital Region (NCR).

During the virtual announcement of the Go Negosyo’s pooled testing research results, Garin said the DOH will "determine or approve" the pilot implementing sites that they have recommended.

She said pilot implementation sites are all government hospitals--four of which are located in Luzon and four are in Visayas.

In Luzon, the proposed pilot testing implementation sites are Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and the Lung Center of the Philippines.

The University of Cebu Medical Center (UNMed), Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), Wester Visayas Medical Center (WVMC), and Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) have been identified as pilot sites in Visayas.

Garin said the identified hospitals, using their own laboratories and bigger population of 10,000 people, will “replicate” the pooled testing study conducted by the PSP and PCMC.

“After doing that, they will all compare the results, discuss it with PCMC and RITM (Research Institute of Tropical Medicine) and come up with a detailed step by step protocol on how pooled testing will be conducted,” she said.

“The DOH will now issue the necessary guidelines for pooled testing under the leadership of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine because they are our national reference laboratory. The Philippine Society of Pathologists will be there as mentors and as a technical advisory group that will oversee this cascading,” she added.

She said the hospitals will be provided with equipment, test kits, supplies, and other administrative support during the pilot implementation.

“As pooled testing will be implemented, there will be a weekly review of the technical advisory group that will be formed in coordination with the DOH and RITM. From there, they can either recommend to increase the pool or reduce the pool,” Garin said.