The new 11 Associate Members of NRCP

The National Research Council of the Philippines has sworn in 11 new Associate Members from the Medical Sciences Division during its Scientific Session and Business Meeting on December 16, 2020 via Zoom. Two of these new members presented salient results of their studies.

Dr. Marilen P. Balolong, a professor and university scientist of the University of the Philippines Manila, in her study titled, ‘Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Monitoring Beyond the Clinics in the Time of CoVid-19: Linking Environment Health to Human Health’, was able to identify 23 isolates out of 100 isolates of Klebsiella pneumonia (a bacterium that normally live in human’s intestines and feces) that were taken from four different provincial hospitals in Luzon. These isolates were found to be resistant to all or at least three antibiotics which adds to mounting threat of antimicrobial resistance in the Philippines.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is defined as the ability of microbes, such as bacteria to grow despite the presence of antimicrobials that would normally kill or inhibit their growth rendering antibiotics ineffective.

The identification of isolates resistant to antibiotics is part of the country-wide effort to strengthen its Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Program. Results from these studies provide evidence-based inputs for policy research and development in coming up with useful guidelines to prevent and control the emergence of AMR in the country.

“Monitoring AMR (both AR bacteria and AR gene markers) are important not just for the clinics but more importantly for linking environment health to human and animal health. This can be achieved by monitoring the environment as the main reservoir of AR genes (e.g., soil, water bodies, and wastewater); correlating environmental pollutions as driver of AMR rise and transmission; predicting epidemics linked to AMR; and providing evidence to contribute to national action plan coming from environmental data,” said Dr. Balolong.


Dr. Balolong on her powerpoint presentation explaining how AMR can be transmitted

Dr. Balolong also pointed out that AMR in vegetables and irrigation water, aquaculture, wildlife, and bodies of water pose risks to food systems and to human health.


In terms of antimicrobial use practice, there is an over the counter access at retail outlets. Antimicrobials are used to treat infectious diseases caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoan parasites. However, the antimicrobials used in human medicine are frequently used in poultry and swine farms in the Philippines. As a result, the residue that may be found in animal-derived food (e.g., pork, poultry, and eggs) may be acquired by human consumers, so if this happens it may contribute to triggers’ for the development of AMR to resident gut flora.

"Therefore, there is a need for the development of a guideline for curbing AMR to prudent antimicrobial use and as a service reference point for antimicrobial surveillance and capacity development particularly in our country,” Dr. Balolong asserted.

On the other hand, Dr. Jose Ma. Angeles, associate professor of UP Manila, presented his findings on the Use of Serodiagnostic Tools for Schistosomiasis Surveillance towards Disease Elimination. The results of the study will be the basis in developing more sensitive and specific recombinant antigen-based serological assays for schistosomiasis both humans and animals.

Schistosomiasis is an infection caused by parasitic worms called trematodes or blood fluke specifically Schistosoma japonicum transmitted to humans and other mammalian hosts through contact with fresh water infested with the parasite that penetrates even an intact skin. The parasite is provided with different enzymes like proteases that it can use in order to enter the skin of the mammalian hosts. Schistosomiasis is prevalent in tropical and sub-tropical areas especially in poor communities without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

Based from the Department of Health on Schistosomiasis and elimination, Davao del Sur and Bohol are candidates for schistosomiasis  elimination, however water buffaloes (carabaos)  in Bohol were tested positive.

“In the Philippines, water buffaloes are used in farms for labor force and these farms are usually the transmission sites in the endemic areas and they are the continuously exposed to the parasitic worms, schistosome, leading to steady infection of these animals,” said Dr. Angeles. However, he asserted that the absence of human cases doesn't mean there is an absence of parasite in the transmission sites.


The ‘One Health’ approach of Dr. Angeles’s team to help eliminate Schistosomiasis

Dr. Angeles also said that the presence of  parasite in  bovine host poses a threat in the human schistosomiasis elimination proving that water buffaloes could be sensitive markers for schistosome infection in endemic areas nearing eliminations.

Their current control strategies for zoonotic diseases are mass drug administration (MDA), health promotion, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and veterinary intervention that include diagnostic and surveillance.  These are anchored with the ‘One Health’ approach of the Department of Health with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals and their shared environment.

Meanwhile, Dr. Leslie Michelle M. Dalmacio, Division Chair, presented the highlights of the NRCP 87th founding anniversary during the business meeting. She also tackled the NRCP accomplishments during the pandemic, the launching of monographs, and list of approved research projects of Division III members. Lastly, she presented new opportunities for 2021 and call for proposals for NRCP Grants-in-Aid Program. (Rowena N. Peter- RDMD)