Biotechnology firm develops ASF test kit


BIOTECHNOLOGY COMPANY Manila HealthTek, Inc. (MTek) said it has developed a test to detect African Swine Fever (ASF), which is currently constraining the supply of pork due to significant animal deaths in the hog industry.

MTek said in a statement that the product is a molecular-based testing platform for ASF that has been validated by a national reference animal-testing laboratory.

According to MTek, the validation exercise found the ASF test kit to be 100% sensitive and 100% specific. The kit has yet to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Once approved by the FDA, the diagnostic kits will be distributed throughout the country, including remote areas,” MTek said.

Raul V. Destura, MTek founder and chief executive officer, said early detection is important to ensure rapid response and containment of ASF.

“ASF threatens not just the livelihood of our farmers but also our food security. With many Filipinos struggling to put food on the table, a pork crisis on top of that problem would be tragic,” Mr. Destura said in the statement.

“We do not just want to sit on the sidelines while our foreign counterparts find solutions… The ASF kit is just one of MTek’s contributions to finding diagnostics solutions to the country’s health problems,” he added.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, ASF is a severe and highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease in pigs that poses no health risk to humans. The disease was first detected in the country in 2019 and has depleted the hog inventory, resulting in high pork prices.

In July, the Department of Agriculture declared the areas of Lipa City, San Jose, Malvar, Rosario, Taysan, and Nasugbu in Batangas to be officially free from ASF.

The government is also currently conducting trials on an ASF vaccine in partnership with 10 local companies.

According to its website, MTek develops portable diagnostic kits to test for selected infectious diseases.

Some of the kits developed by MTek in collaboration with other institutions include the Biotek-M DengueAqua Kit and the GenAmplify coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing kit. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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