A new saliva test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Results from the COVID-19 diagnostic test are available in a few hours and, ideally, able to be communicated to people tested within a day. Highly sensitive to detecting even tiny levels of the virus in a saliva sample, the test does not require special swabs and reagents that have been in short supply.
Developed in collaboration with the biotechnology company Fluidigm, the test could help simplify and expand the availability of COVID-19 diagnostic testing across broad populations. Such testing does not rely on the extraction of viral RNA to detect the virus—a time-consuming and expensive process—and could be scaled up easily, in part because people can collect their own saliva samples, relieving health-care workers of the need to conduct sample collection as they do for nasal and throat swab tests.
The test allows individuals to provide a saliva sample by spitting into a small test tube, eliminating the need for healthcare workers to insert long nasal swabs deep into the nasal cavity. The researchers conducted experiments to show that the viral particles in the saliva sample remain stable for testing purposes for extended periods of time.