RITM explains choice for nucleic acid extraction machines

MUNTINLUPA CITY—The Department of Health-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM) asserted that their choice for nucleic acid extraction machines ensures congruity between COVID-19 testing implements and processes. The statement came on the heels of a Senate inquiry during the recently-held Committee of the Whole hearing on Wednesday, 20th of May.

In polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and other molecular biology procedures, compatibility between instruments, kits, and reagents is critical in ensuring that the process can be performed properly and without errors. An extraction machine classified as an open system is more advantageous in view of their adaptability with other reagent brands,” RITM Director Celia Carlos pointed out.

The brand in question is an open system that is compatible with various bead-based extraction kits that are used for an assortment of downstream applications such as PCR testing and genome sequencing. It also extracts nucleic acid with high levels of purity, making it viable for any PCR protocol with any brand of PCR kits and machines duly validated and approved by RITM and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “This will prove to be the most favorable and practical option for the government in the long term. Whereas, if the government purchases a cheaper, non-open system and its supplies run scarce, we will not be able to utilize that equipment at all,” she further clarified.

RITM also highlighted that all subnational laboratories (SNLs) run their COVID-19 testing using their existing machines, and given that compatibility with a non-open system can be an issue, it will cost SNLs further delays and backlogs if other brands of automated extraction equipment were to be explored in the midst of the ongoing outbreak.

Using similar and compatible brands between the national reference laboratory and all subnational laboratories facilitates standardization of technical processes, and sharing of kits and consumables among labs—this is especially necessary during periods of high testing demands. Standardization of implemented protocols is a global Good Clinical Laboratory Practice as well, primarily among international laboratory networks where RITM has long been a respected participant,” Carlos concluded.

The RITM molecular biology staff are highly familiar and proficient in the use of the proposed automated extraction machines, which can yield pure nucleic acids from 96 samples in an hour. This poses a great benefit for subnational laboratories where RITM technologists can readily provide technical assistance and expert opinion in using and maintaining the equipment. The local supplier of the brand has also been very active in providing reliable preventive maintenance and equipment support.