UP Open University’s (UPOU) Faculty of Management and Development Studies (FMDS) started the Let’s Talk It Over (LTiO) series for the year with the webinar hosted by the Diploma in/Master of International Health (D/MIH) program titled, “Of Variants, PCR, and Pandemics: The Science Behind” live-streamed on 30 March 2021 via the UPOU Networks, UPOU Multimedia Center Facebook page, and UPOU YouTube channel.

Mr. Angelito Ortega Abaoag, a molecular microbiologist and environmental scientist from Microbiome Lifesciences Pte Ltd, served as a guest speaker for the webinar.

Mr. Abaoag started his lecture by comparing and contrasting the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus. He emphasized that there is no workable vaccine yet for both viruses and that both viruses are difficult to control as they are mutating rapidly. He then explained the science behind mutation and the positive and negative effects of these mutations.

He also talked about variants and shared that there are hundreds of different SARS-CoV-2 variants being reported worldwide. He stated that different variants may affect the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test results depending on the site of the mutation and site coverage of the RT-PCR test primers. The existing vaccines may also have reduced potency against new variants if the S protein changes. “It now becomes a question of risk—either reduced protection or no protection at all. The choice is yours,” he stressed.

Mr. Aboag concluded his lecture by highlighting the importance of crowd control, early detection, and immunity through vaccination in ending the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

An open forum moderated by Ms. Jelaine Bagos, D/MIH program staff, was held after the speaker’s presentation. To end the program, the D/MIH program chair, Asst. Prof. Myra Oruga, delivered the closing remarks.▪

Written by Jelaine R. Bagos • Edited by Larry N. Cruz and Primo G. Garcia