AS SOON AS the confirmed novel coronavirus case of the 60-year-old Chinese woman was announced, Rep. Edgar Chatto asked the Department of Health (DOH) to explain the “discrepancy” of the two laboratory results.

A swab sample taken from the patient on January 23 and sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila had tested negative. Another sample, taken on January 24, was sent by the RITM to the expert lab in Australia but tested negative, too. On February 3, the RITM did a re-run test on the January 23 sample and, this time, it tested positive for novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the patient had recovered and gotten stable until she was discharged from the hospital in Bohol on January 31. She has since gone back to China.

But Chatto still asked the DOH to explain the possible reasons why the examination results of the RITM and Australian laboratory on the nasopharyngeal swab of the Chinese woman did not match.

The DOH people explained the same to the Bohol mayors in their meeting here yesterday.

DOH-7 Director Jaime Bernadas was quick to clarify to Chatto that the laboratory examinations for viruses are dependent on the presence or absence of the viral RNA (Viral RNA is the component of the virus – riboxynucleic acid). Therefore, tests can be positive when this is detectable in the sample and negative when not.

Viral infections are self-limiting, Bernadas said. “They tend to resolve in a period of time. For known viruses, it is 5-10 days. This virus is still poorly understood, but when patients start to recover, it follows that the virus and its presence in the body also decline.”

Bernadas explained that both samples from the Chinese woman were in the possession of RITM. The first sample was taken on January 23 and yielded negative. They decided to send the second specimen (taken on January 24) to Australia because, clinically, the most recent sample is more relevant for physician’s tool for management.


Meanwhile, the RITM had developed the capacity to conduct the testing. So, it ran tests on all pending specimens in their possession. The first sample was re-run on February 3 and read positive as the sample might still have contained a load of the virus.

Bernadas theorized that the examination on the second specimen taken on January 24 and sent to Australia showed it might not have contained the virus anymore as the virus had already waned.

This was displayed by the recovery of the patient later on and the subsequent negative result later for the third specimen. Hence, the recovery and later discharge of the patient from the hospital.

Bernadas concluded that the result is not inconsistent. It just goes to show the correlation between the admission status and the recovery of the patient while in the hospital.

Chatto was likewise assured by PHO thru Dr. Yul Lopez that contact tracing of all persons who came in contact with the patient both in the hotel and the hospital were conducted.

He also asked Bernadas to seek help from the Chinese Consulate in Cebu to check the whereabouts in China of the patient who visited Bohol—and her medical condition there after being discharged from the hospital in Bohol.

Chatto is calling the Boholanos’ cooperation and to support the efforts of the DOH, the Provincial Government and Local Government Units.

“Unity and solidarity are key elements we must have in a crisis situation like this,” he stated, citing Bohol response to various challenges it faced in the past.

With full support from Gov. Arthur Yap and Vice Gov. Rene Relampagos, who is the acting governor, Dr. Yul Lopez and his task group have intensified their contact-tracing of the people who must have possibly come close to the Chinese woman while she was in Bohol.