THE Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region targets to conduct the dry run of the whole genome sequencing (WGS) laboratory of UP Mindanao in February.

“First namin target is January but there was a problem. We adjusted to February, so hopefully, we can have our dry run then,” said Dr. Rachel Pasion, head of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of DOH-Davao, during a virtual presser on Thursday, January 20, 2022.

Pasion said they are waiting for the equipment for the genome sequencing laboratory for University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UP Mindanao) to arrive, while the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) is awaiting more manpower since they will conduct the RNA extraction.

Pasion added that SPMC will provide the wet laboratory that UP Mindanao needs to conduct the WGS.

She also explained that the WGS is not a diagnostic test but rather a surveillance of variants using collected specimen samples to determine which variants of concern are prevalent in the region.

Meanwhile, Pasion explained during the same presser that the delayed detection of the Omicron variant in Davao Region is because the UP-Philippine Genome Center (PGC) caters to samples nationwide, thus results are often delayed.

As of Thursday, January 20, the DOH-Davao is only allowed to submit 65 samples for the whole genome sequencing, Pasion said.

“It's because UP-PGC po ang nag cater ng majority of the samples sa Visayas, Mindanao, and also sa Luzon. That's why... we want to expand that one so that real time din po yung ating results ng ating whole genome sequencing (The delay is because UP-PGC caters majority of the samples from Visayas, Mindanao, and also Luzon. That’s why we want to expand so that we could have a real-time result of the WGS),” she said.

This follows after DOH-Davao announced on Thursday, January 20, that five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant were detected in Davao Region, almost three weeks after specimen samples were collected on December 23 to 29, 2021.

With this, Pasion said it is possible the Omicron variant may have been circulating in the region even before it was detected.

UP-Mindanao will be the satellite facility of the UP-PGC that will cater samples from Visayas and Mindanao to decongest those that are handled by the UP Diliman.

“Napag-usapan kung ano pa po yung mga kakulangan na resources before we proceed with this laboratory (We already talked about the remaining resources that we still need before we proceed with this laboratory),” said Pasion.

“Hopefully, it will be successful so we can have the whole genome sequencing here in Mindanao,” she added.