The Philippines was recently placed under a state of calamity after President Duterte imposed a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to contain the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) that has affected the country with a total of 217 cases, eight recoveries and 17 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.
The surge in the number of people infected was described by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic. It has killed more than 9,370 and infected over 227,700 others worldwide as of Thursday.
Amid this situation, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has lined up researches and services focused to treat people infected with or manage Covid-19, and provide aid to the public affected by the lockdown.
VCO versus Covid-19
Among the researches Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, with the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), has enumerated is the testing of virgin coconut oil (VCO) for its anti-Covid-19 virus properties.
Titled, “In-vitro Study on the Efficacy of Lauric Acid and its Derivatives against SARS-CoV-2,” the project is a partnership between Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and the Duke-National University of Singapore (Duke-NUS). In-vitro means a process performed in a test tube or culture dish.
The PCHRD-funded project aims to test whether certain coconut oil components, such as lauric acid, can determine the antiviral properties, diminish or prevent the causing of infection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
The results will be used for further studies.
Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit, project leader, told the BusinessMirror in a telephone interview that his team is already preparing the samples which will be sent to Duke-NUS.
He said the result of the test may be available in two months, citing the lockdowns caused by the growth in number of Covid-19 infections as a constraint in speeding up the study.
“We have prepared the samples in order to test in Singapore the components of VCO, to check whether they would lower or reduce the ability of the coronavirus to infect people,” Dayrit said.
Optimistic about the test results, Dayrit explained that VCO has already shown the “history of its efficacy against many viruses.” However, it still has to be tested to “determine the dosage” that is effective against Covid-19.
He further explained that the test has to be done in Singapore because the Philippines has no laboratory to isolate the coronavirus and in order to observe the biosafety levels.
In the paper, “The Potential of Coconut Oil and its Derivatives as Effective and Safe Antiviral Agents Against the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV-2019), dated January 31, Dayrit and Dr. Mary T. Newport, MD, said “lauric acid and monolaurin, its derivative, have been known for many years to have significant antiviral activity.”
They said the antiviral activity of lauric acid and monolaurin are explained in three mechanisms: “First, they cause disintegration of the virus envelope; second, they can inhibit late maturation stage in the virus replicative cycle; and third, they can prevent the binding of viral proteins to the host cell membrane.”
“Coconut oil and its derivatives have been shown to be safe and effective antiviral compounds in both humans and animals. Because of the antiviral and antibacterial protection that it provides to animals, coconut oil, as well as lauric acid and monolaurin, is used in farm animals and pets as veterinary feed supplements in chicken, swine and dogs [Baltic et al., 2017]. Monolaurin has been shown to effectively protect chicken against avian influenza virus [van der Sluis, 2015],” the duo said in the paper.
They also cited that monolaurin was found to be highly active against repeated high viral loads of Simian immunodeficiency virus in macaques.
Likewise, a 35 percent gel of monolaurin was developed for application in the female genital tract to protect against HIV.
At the same time, they said, “coconut oil itself has been shown to have anti-HIV properties in small clinical studies.”
The public is already familiar with the Covid-19 test kits funded by DOST-PCHRD and was developed by Dr. Raul V. Destura of the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), Philippine Genome Center and the Manila HealthTek Inc.
The Covid-19 diagnostic kits that are being produced by Manila HealthTek will soon be made available by the end of March to hospitals handling patients after the kits were tested.
To help policy-makers create better and evidence-based strategies in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, Filipino researchers are investigating the coronavirus transmission patterns among confirmed cases and their contacts in the country.
The ongoing study funded by DOST-PCHRD is expected to yield data on transmission dynamics, secondary infection rate and clinical-attack rate of the disease among close contacts and symptomatic proportion of Covid-19 cases in the Philippines.
The study, led by Dr. Mayan U. Lumandas of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, will use samples from the institute.
It aims to supply the Department of Health useful data which can improve national efforts in case isolation, contact tracing, and disease control and prevention.
Mary Ann Pacho of PCHRD told the BusinessMirror in a telephone interview that the study is expected to help develop recommendations and guidelines for case definition and surveillance to manage Covid-19.
In getting patterns of Covid-19 transmission, Pacho said the collected data can help identify strategies that may reduce the potential spread and impact of infection.
Application for early detection
The Ateneo de Manila University’s researchers developed a modeling tool with the application “Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using a Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases [FASSSTER]” to predict the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak using DOH and other data and information.
A Web- and mobile-based surveillance and response tool, FASSSTER is also being enhanced to visualize real-time updates on the numbers of Covid-19-related information in the country.
500,000 reusable face masks
DOST’s Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI), in cooperation with the local government unit (LGU) of Taytay and the private sector, will produce 500,000 face masks that can be reused up to 50 times.
The PTRI will use textile-coating technology for treatment and finishing.
It will collaborate with the Power Fashion Inc. to produce masks using local fiber textiles. Power Fashion will donate the textiles.
Also, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology will make available unused masks that were readied during the ashfall during the Taal Eruption.
Processed food production
The DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) will open its Food Innovation Facilities for the production of processed food.
It will also make available immediately 15,000 packs of ready-to-eat arrozcaldo chicken and 3,000 packs of rice meal for distribution in regions.
For its part, the DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute will provide complimentary food for babies and children.
They are available in 37 technology adopters which are either LGUs, state universities and colleges, nongovernment organizations or private enterprises in different regions.
Hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol making
DOST-ITDI will also offer online livelihood training or e-learning courses for hand gel sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, antibacterial soap and processed foods.
Thermal camera as temperature scanner
DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) can use their new satellite imagery plus other complementary data in providing useful data analytics, e.g., movement of people, etc.
DOST-ASTI will also accelerate its research in developing a small thermal camera that can be attached to smart phones to be used as temperature scanner.
Bilateral partners for clinical trials
Foreign bilateral partners are being contacted for possible clinical trials in the Philippines for the vaccine or drug they have developed in their R&D centers.
Evacuation tent designs
The DOST-Metals Industry Research and Development Center has ready designs for evacuation tents, hospital beds and crushing machine for spent medical vials.
They also have agro-machineries designs for livelihood purposes.
Online application for scholarships; PSHS home-based study
When the lockdown was announced, DOST’s Science Education Institute has installed online application systems for DOST scholarships.
It will also process the giving of scholars’ allowance in advance for their ATMs.
At the same time, DOST’s Philippine Science High School System System, with its 16 regional campus nationwide, has immediately shifted to home-based study using e-learning methods and materials heavily.
Restructuring of repayment system of MSMEs
The repayment system for production technology equipment advanced by DOST for higher productivity to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises in all regions of the country will be restructured for two months’ deferment without interest penalty.
Sterilization of medical devices
DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute will offer sterilization services using e-beam for medical devices.