The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) delivered 106 units of RxBox to the Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) on Tuesday, 31 March 2020 as part of its ongoing efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
RxBox is an innovation developed by researchers from UP Manila and UP Diliman with support from the Department of Science and Technology through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST PCHRD). It is a multi-component biomedical device capable of measuring a patient’s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, uterine contractions, and electrocardiogram readings. It can reduce contact between patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and healthcare workers.
The delivered devices will be used for bedside monitoring of the vital signs, oxygen saturation, and electrocardiogram readings of patients diagnosed with COVID-19, especially those in severe or critical conditions who need continuous monitoring. It will also provide an efficient way for healthcare workers to monitor multiple patients at once.
Here are the features of DOST’s RxBox:
1) Blood Pressure Monitor – Measures the patient’s blood pressure to detect cardiovascular problems especially hypertension
2)Pulse Oximeter – Measures the level of oxygen in the patient’s blood and can help detect lung and cardiovascular problems
3) Electrocardiogram – Monitors the heart’s movement to pump blood throughout the body, helpful for those with acute and chronic heart problems
4) Fetal Heart Monitor – Measures the baby’s heart rate while in the womb
5) Maternal Tocometer – Measures the strength of a mother’s uterine contractions during labor and delivery
6) Temperature Sensor – Measures a patient’s body temperature. It can help detect fever, a common medical sign of infection and other disease conditions.
The DOST CALABARZON Regional Office is the implementing agency that will coordinate with other regional offices for the distribution of the remaining 894 RxBox units to selected healthcare facilities.(Enrico Belga, Office of the DOST Secretary)
VCO CLINICAL STUDIES BY DOST, UP-PGH, AND PCA
This research of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on virgin coconut oil (VCO) is planned to have two arms: one hospital-based and one community-based.
For the hospital based, the study entitled, “Virgin Coconut Oil and Omega-3a Adjunctive Therapy for Hospitalized Patients with COVID 19” will be conducted at the Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and will be led by Dr. Marissa Alejandria. The VCO will serve as a supplement to the daily treatment regimen of the COVID-19 positive patients. The study aims to assess the possible benefits of VCO if given to patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 in addition to the drugs being assessed in the clinical trials. This arm may possibly run for a minimum of one month or until the minimum number of patients have been achieved. This is in cooperation with the DOST and the UP-PGH Clinical COVID-19 Research Group and the Metro Manila Health Research and Development Consortium of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST PCHRD).
Parallel to this will be the research for the COVID-19 Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) which will be conducted at isolation facilities in communities and hospitals in National Capital Region and Region IV-A in collaboration with DOST CALABARZON and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) will take the lead in the community-based study and will incorporate VCO in the food provided to the PUIs. The study aims to assess the possible benefits provided by VCO for patients with COVID-19 as well as contacts and other high-risk groups. The project team is planning to conduct the same to their previous intervention studies and the dietary supplementation may possibly run for at least 4 weeks. The study will be done in cooperation with the DOST-PCHRD and the Philippine Coconut Authority.
NAST HEALTH SCIENCES DIVISION STATEMENT: SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AS DRIVERS TO WIN THE RACE AGAINST COVID19
The current CoViD19 problem caused by the SARS CoV2 virus has raised and continue to raise issues on how programs and strategies can better control and prevent the escalation of the problem. With the recent declarations of the World Health Organization that COVID 19 is already a global pandemic and the implementation of community quarantine and subsequently extended community quarantine initially involving the National Capital Region and eventually the whole of Luzon, we expect greater urgency for countries to implement programs and strategies to stem and arrest this epidemic. Almost all of these countries, and the Philippines is no exception, have proposed novel and sometimes radical measures as possible solutions. Almost all of them, however, are not based on scientific studies but largely on expert opinion and what we think worked and did not work during the SARS problem in 2003 and the pandemic influenza global pandemic in 2009.
Being caught in the midst of this ongoing epidemic and the consequent rapid rush of research institutions, both in the private and the public sector to find the magic cure for this disease, whether it be a drug or a vaccine to prevent transmission and infection of the virus, the research community should galvanize and unify efforts to spearhead researches that will address current health issues brought about by the CoViD 19 problem.
Dealing with and confronting this problem will require a whole of government-led approach with involvement and engagement of the private sector and the general public. Networking and collaboration among and within these different groups will be the key. Researches, in particular, will be critical in the fight against the CoViD 19 recognizing that this is a new disease with a potentially different behavior, progression and effect on the health of individuals, the community and the nation as compared to the other emerging pathogens
We, at the National Academy of Science and Technology, fully support the current research initiatives of the government and the Department of Science and Technology. In the face of limited resources and paucity of knowledge concerning the virus and the disease it causes, researches are being developed and implemented in collaboration with various research groups both here and abroad to address various aspects of the CoViD19 problem. In the light of all these, we propose that the following researches be done or enhanced to identify and implement the most effective measures to address problem of CoViD 19 in the following areas:
1) In the area of epidemiology, modelling studies , which are mostly mathematical, may help us better understand how the epidemic will evolve. Input of health data into these disease models, as the epidemic progresses, will be very important to provide government planners scientific projections on how this epidemic will progress. The data generated will be very helpful in forward planning by concerned government agencies to anticipate, prepare and dampen the effects of this epidemic on different aspects of national life, including the economy.
2) In the area of diagnostics, whereas current tests are focused on the detection of the virus in affected patients, tests determining the presence of antibodies mounted by the human hosts should also be developed. These antibody-based assays will help determine the patients who were truly infected, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. It may catch the cases missed by the tests for detecting infection as these tests may have been done too early or too late in the disease. The tests to detect antibodies will determine the true burden of disease and as well as provide added information on the infectiousness, transmission dynamics and progression of the disease. These tests may also be used for predicting chances for development of complications as well as mortality, especially if the antibodies are proven to be neutralizing antibodies.
3) In the area of therapy, the country should participate in clinical trials that would have already been initiated by other countries to help us better understand patient responses to this therapy and determine whether different genetic backgrounds, cultures and environment may affect patient response. Moreover, participation in these multi-country studies can facilitate its availability in our country when the results become significant.
4) In the area of prevention and the development of vaccines, knowing more about the virus, its genetic makeup and how fast it mutates or changes will accelerate its development. Characterizing the molecular and genetic structure as isolated from patients in the Philippines can be contributed to the international database that will serve as references for vaccine development. This will ensure that the vaccines developed can induce protection against all of the circulating SarsCoV2 viruses isolated from patients anywhere else in the world.
5) In the area of host factors, genetic biomarkers may be identified that may either predispose or make people less susceptible to the infection. They may also be used to determine risk for severity of disease and complications.
In all of these initiatives, sharing of information within and among scientists, researchers and institutions both here and abroad will help us build on each others’ strengths and accelerate the race for finding the solutions and the answers to many of our questions.
Ultimately, winning the battle would depend on how much and how good we understand our adversary- the Covid19 and the virus that causes it. To many, the virus is like an unknown enemy that works silently easing its way among and through susceptible populations, evading detection and prevention. The experiences of many countries, whether good or bad, will serve as valuable learnings for all of us. For one thing is certain, this epidemic will not be the only ones we will be confronting in the years to come. It has been established by scientists that in the area of zoonotic diseases that start from animal hosts before reaching humans, only half of viruses have been identified. Scientific research and development remain our most effective weapon to confront them and the SARS CoV2.