DOST tests efficiency of N95 mask; finds sulfur in dust particles from Taguig City

Marje Pelayo   •   January 16, 2020   •   516

MANILA, Philippines – The UNTV News team has been given an exclusive tour to the Advance Device and Materials Testing Laboratory of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Experts at the DOST’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) explained how they test the ability of face masks to screen airborne contaminants specifically volcanic ash.

DOST-ITDI Chemical and Metallurgical Laboratory head, Beejay Salon initiated the testing of a piece of face mask that residents in Batangas are using – the N95 mask.

Ika-cut natin yung sample para makita natin yung layers ng mask (We will cut the sample to see the layers of the mask),” he said.

Using a state-of-the-art optical microscope or a low-powered stereomicroscope, they magnified the cut section of N95 mask 20 times.

The same procedure was done to an ordinary surgical mask.

“Kung ikukumpara mo ang dalawang images, yung N95 is mas pino, ito kasi mas malalawak yung pagkakalayo ng mga fiber (If we compare both images, the fiber in N95 is finer unlike in the [surgical mask] which is less compact),” explained Lab Manager Dr. Aracely Monsada.

So ano pong implication noon? Iyong N95 ay mas mataas ang efficiency niya (What’s the implication? N95 is more efficient) to protect the person from inhaling particles that are smaller,” she added.

Apart from smaller particles, N95 mask can also filter microbes and viruses such as the one that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

“Kaya sinabing N95 ibig sabihin 95% ang efficiency niya na pwede niyang i-block yung particles as small as 0.3 micron (That’s why it’s labeled ‘N95’ because its efficiency is 95% when it comes to blocking particles as small as 0.3 micron),” Monsada said.

The news team also had a piece of towel and a cotton fabric checked for efficiency.

Test results showed fibers in the said fabrics were not finely-knit.

DOST also demonstrated the use of its new equipment — the field emission scanning electron microscope — in testing samples of volcanic ash that reached the Department’s central office in Taguig City.

“Based doon sa result, may mga particles na may nakitang sulfur (Based on the results, we found sulfur in the dust particles),” confirmed laboratory analyst, Dhale Mar Alfeche.

“In terms of percentage, nakita natin na pinakamataas (the highest is) 9% sulfur,” he added.

Experts concluded that finer particles reach the farthest distance, because they are lighter in weight.

Therefore, exposure to such very fine ash particles poses high risk when inhaled or ingested.

“Kapag ito ay na-inhale ninyo, which is actually less than 2 microns, tapos nakikita mo merong mga parang needle-like particles, puwede kasing pagpasok niya sa system natin pwedeng mag-abrade siya (Once you inhale these needle-like particles which are actually less than 2 microns, it can be abrasive once it enters your system),” warned Dr. Monsada.

Tapos, kung aabot siya sa lungs pwedeng mag cause ng (If these particles reach your lungs, they can cause) cancer or other health complication,” he concluded. – MNP (with exclusive interview/coverage by Rey Pelayo)

IATF approves Phl participation in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials

Maris Federez   •   May 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Upon the recommendation of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved the proposed participation of the Philippines in clinical trials that seek to formulate a potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Based on IATF Resolution No.39 dated May 22, 2020, the task force has also ordered the creation of a sub-technical working group which will be led by the DOST.

The group will be coordinating with the four collaborating organizations composed of the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the World Health Organization (WHO) with regard to the said clinical trials.

The IATF has also issued a directive to the FDA to facilitate the processing of necessary permits for the conduct of the clinical trials in the country.

The collaborating organizations for the clinical trials are the Adimmune Corporation, Academia Sinica, Chinese Academy of Science- Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, the Sinopharm – Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, and the Beijing Institute.

Once the clinical trials are undertaken, these will be included in the FDA’s requirements for the registration process for the vaccine and the application for certificate of registration to make the vaccine available in the market.

The Philippines has initially participated in the WHO’s clinical trials, which include the testing of off-label drugs that show potential of being effective against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the IATF has also approved the plans of the DOST to construct research centers for the local vaccine research development.

These include the Virology S&T Institute at the New Clark City in Tarlac and the reactivation of the Pharmaceutical Development Unit of the DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute. —(from the report of Rosalie Coz) /mbmf

Duterte approves hiring of additional workers for FDA, DOST

Marje Pelayo   •   April 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is busy processing applications for licenses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test kits and all other products necessary in the country’s fight against the global pandemic.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), meanwhile, is focusing on research and development of treatment or vaccine against COVID-19.

Due to the volume of work and the high demand for additional workforce, President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the two agencies to hire more personnel to join the government’s COVID-19 response.

“I have authorized these two offices — the FDA and the DOST — to employ as much as many that would be required to expedite [the processes] and to enable the agencies to work day and night. As I have said, we are fighting a war here, a crisis,” the President said in Filipino during his live address to the nation on Monday (April 27).

Meanwhile in his Joint Congressional Oversight Committee report, the President noted that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) already approved the hiring of additional workers for the Department of Health (DOH). 

The DOH requested for additional 15,757 healthcare professionals who will be given three-months contract of service and will be funded with P2.7-billion.

The DOH said seven hospitals have signified their request for additional medical personnel to cope with the volume of workload in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

DOST eyes collaborations with other countries to develop COVID-19 vaccine

Marje Pelayo   •   April 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is willing to accept individuals or organizations who wish to collaborate with the government in developing a cure against coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The idea comes after President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer of P50 million cash reward to anyone who will develop the much needed vaccine.

But according to DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, the task will not be easy as there is no established institution in the country dedicated to the development of vaccines.

Developing a vaccine is a tedious and lengthy process but the official said many institutions focusing on research and development (R&D) may attempt to develop one for COVID-19.

“Mayroon silang biorepository ng iba’t-ibang samples so puwede. Madali silang maka-shift into a particular disease lalo na kung may history na sila na naka-develop na sila ng mga vaccines,” Dela Peña said.

(They have biorepository of different samples so it’s possible. It is easier for them to shift [focus] into a particular disease especially if they already have a history of developing vaccines.)

Aside from seeking interests from here in the Philippines, the Department eyes working in partnership with other countries with bilateral agreement with the Philippines on R&D and are currently conducting studies and experiments on a potential vaccine for COVID-19.

Kung nandoon na sila sa stage na mayroon na silang na-develop ay makikisabay tayo sa kanila sa clinical trials,” the DOST chief said.

(If they are in that stage of developing [a vaccine], we will just collaborate with their clinical trials.)

Meanwhile, the DOST is sending samples of locally-produced lauric acid to other countries for testing if such can directly fight viruses such as the one causing COVID-19.

Lauric acid is a by-product of coconut fat which is believed to have potential benefits to human health. – MNP (with inputs from Rey Pelayo)

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