RITM is PH’s first Monkeypox testing lab

RITM Special Pathogens Laboratory staff prepares reagents during optimization of assay for Monkeypox detection.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), through its Veterinary Research Department’s Special Pathogens Laboratory, has formally announced the successful optimization of the assay for detecting Monkeypox on June 22, 2022

This makes RITM the first and currently the only facility in the country with the capacity for laboratory diagnosis and confirmation of Monkeypox virus.

The Institute received primers, probes, and controls for Monkeypox detection on June 14, 2022, through the assistance of its longtime research collaborators from the Tohoku University in Japan, and have since worked around the clock to finish the optimization. The optimization will allow for the use of existing equipment to run the molecular test for Monkeypox detection.

The Institute’s Molecular Biology Laboratory guided the Special Pathogens Laboratory in the optimization of the assays.

We are grateful to our collaborators from Tohoku University for extending their assistance once again to help us acquire the necessary lab components immediately. They were also instrumental in the establishment of COVID-19 PCR testing in early 2020,” says RITM Laboratory Research Division Chief Dr. Amado O Tandoc III, expressing gratitude towards Tohoku University.

Same with the COVID-19 test, the assay for the detection of Monkeypox virus is ran on the Realtime Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machines. With its current resources and facility, the Institute’s turnaround time for the releasing of results for Monkeypox detection is 48 hours upon receiving the sample.

There are no confirmed cases of Monkeypox in the Philippines as of date of reporting.

Following the Interim Guidelines released by the Department of Health (DM No. 2022-0220), only cases satisfying the definition of ‘Suspect Monkeypox’ and samples compliant to the proper procedures for referral will be processed for laboratory confirmation at RITM.

by Reina Manongsong