By Corina Oliquino

MANILA – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has announced on April 24 it will soon start assessing the possible effects of virgin coconut oil on COVID-19 patients to see if it could speed up the recovery of people infected with the new coronavirus.

DOST Sec. Fortunato Dela Peña said patients in the Philippine General Hospital in Manila and the Santa Rosa Community in Laguna will join the clinical trial.

“Naibigay na sa atin kahapon ang approval ng Ethics committee at handa na i-implement,” Fortunato Dela Peña said in Laging Handa briefing. The trial calls for incorporating virgin coconut oil to the everyday diet of patients to assess whether they would recover faster.

“Malaking bagay po kung makikita na nakakapagpabilis ng recovery ito dahil abundant ito dito sa atin at affordable,Dela Peña added.

Dela Peña said the DOST is hoping virgin coconut oil, should clinical trials become successful, would be cleared by the country’s Food and Drug Administration as health supplement for people infected with COVID-19.

As of April 27, the country recorded a total of 7,777 total COVID-19 cases with 511 total deaths and 932 total recoveries.

WHO solidarity trial in PH

In a report by CNN Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on April 23 the Philippines will join the World Health Organization’s (WHO) solidarity trial to find a cure against COVID-19.

DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said the study, which will initially involve at least 500 COVID-19 patients in 20 hospitals, could start as early as Friday if “they satisfy all the requirements for the Solidarity trial led by the World Health Organization.”

Pwede ma-expand. (The sample size) could expand,” Vergeire added.

Manila’s Philippine General Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital, Pasig’s The Medical City, Quezon City’s Lung Center of the Philippines, East Avenue Medical Center, Muntinlupa’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Cebu’s Vicente Sotto Medical Center and Davao’s Southern Philippines Medical Center are some of the hospitals slated to join the trial.

“The participation of the Philippines in the WHO “Solidarity” trial has been approved by the (Health department’s) Single Joint Research Ethics Board or SJREB last April 17, in support of the COVID-19 global response,” WHO said on April 22.

The trial will be conducted by Dr. Marissa Alejandria from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. Alejandria, includes the testing of possible COVID-19 cure including anti-viral drug Remdesivir, Lopinavir-ritonavir, Lopinavir-ritonavir plus interferon beta-1a and malaria medication chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine.

WHO said over 100 countries joined the Solidarity trial amid the lack of vaccine against COVID-19, including Malaysia, Thailand, Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland.

Purified antibodies against COVID-19

In another report by GMA News, IP Biotech and Secura International Corporation have launched a joint venture with support from Vins Bioproducts, the IG Biotech Group to fast-track the development of “antibody-based” prevention and treatment for COVID-19, which will provide a 30-day window of immunity to high-risk individuals and frontliners.

In a joint statement, the companies said the treatment “seeks to introduce a treatment that can be used to alleviate active SARS-CoV-2 infections and in the absence of a vaccine, provide short-term immunity or prophylaxis, against the virus.”

“The treatment being developed will make use of antibodies, also known as hyper-immune globulins, found in convalescent plasma (CP) obtained from former COVID-19 patients,” the statement continued, with IG Biotech noting the antibody treatment has been previously used in recent SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV outbreaks.

“The results of various clinical trials on convalescent plasma being undertaken all over the world will provide further data on clinical efficacy of the treatment. Already, there is strong evidence available to show that this approach is highly likely to be successful,” ASEAN Regional Coordinator for Multi-sectoral Pandemic Preparedness and Response and member of the scientific team of IG Biotech Dr. Noel Miranda said.

Despite the plan, the real challenge for the companies is to “quickly develop a purified and concentrated immunoglobulins (IgG) product for intravenous or intra-muscular delivery.”

“The purified and concentrated form of hyper-immune globulins is expected to be safer, more effective and readily accessible than plasma transfusion therapy,” the statement said.

“It can be delivered in much lower volumes in less time and can be easily stored and shipped all over the country,” it added.