Here’s Why New COVID-19 Saliva Test Is a Breakthrough That Could Halt the Pandemic

Updated on November 9th, 2020
COVID-19 Saliva Tests

Saliva test may be the answer for a quick test. Now, it appears there can be a solution, right in our own saliva. A Yale-developed testing method called SalivaDirect has received emergency use authorization from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), meaning labs can start using it right away.

The test creators say they can use various products to achieve results, meaning littles impact on the supply chain. They also note the test uses spit rather than swabs and can be administered by nonmedical trained professionals [1].

They note it is relatively affordable and also can provide results in a few hours. For Weinstein, this rapid result would have meant not just a little angst but the quicker treatment of what turned out to be an asthma flare-up for her son.

[Read: Unusual COVID-19 Symptoms]

What the impact could be? Is Covid-19 saliva tests a vital breakthrough?

Researchers are encouraged at the initial results but say there’s more to learn.

Having a test more available, quicker, easier than swabs, and at a reasonable price? That would be amazing, not just for diagnosing patients but also for things like contact tracing. We could alter our whole paradigm of follow-up. We should be “cautiously optimistic” about the tests [2].

There are still concerns. We need to get some more data.

And while the test producers state the need for little material is the right step, even a saliva test is not made out of thin air.

The tests have been administered to NBA players in their Florida, Orlando,  bubble with likely success. The new tests also come at a phase when testing is reportedly decreasing, as individuals realize the turnaround time makes them not so valuable.

A trusted saliva test solves most of the problems they’re facing with testing now. The most readily available tests presently are nasopharyngeal swabs, which are extremely uncomfortable, particularly when you’re getting tested once in a while.

If a saliva test were easily available, there’s no question that more individuals will get tested, which will remarkably slow the spread of the virus [3].

Supply chain problems are “significant right now” for the nasal swab test, with the swabs themselves scantily available.

Since Saliva Direct can use various reagents and does not need to be in a unique tube, supply chain issues should be minimized.

Saliva-based tests don’t require this component, and therefore you could test several more people. And since individuals themselves can do saliva tests, nurses are not required, cutting the testing cost exponentially. They can even be done from home, reducing the risks of exposure when going to get tested.

[Read: How Can Mild COVID-19 Symptoms Quickly Turn Serious ?]

Looking at Accuracy

Are the saliva-based tests accurate?

While test creators say they are, some researchers are still waiting for more proof of that. The challenge with saliva is that it is not consistent among individuals. It can change with how much drink or food you have. They are going to need a protocol to work with that [4].

Still, saliva tests look promising and are worth pursuing. It is great, and progress is being made. There is a lot of effort in trying to make this work because they are easy to do, and you get an answer immediately.

[Read: Steps to Stop the Spread of COVID-19]

How to go forward

The solution to testing may not entirely be in saliva testing instead of swabs. It’s not one or the other. It’s the combination. Saliva (rapid) test may not be as precise, but you may take action from it. 

Imagine it like this: A factory worker or student could do a saliva test two times a day.

That would allow more individuals to go back to school or work with confidence.

If a positive test comes from a saliva test, it could be followed with a swab test to retract or confirm.

Conversations are taking place in rapid testing. It could be something you give a child pre and post-school. It may not be as precise, but you may take action from it. It may not be the ideal solution, but it can be much better.

Saliva tests may not, presently, be as precise as swab tests.

Presently, the COVID tests take at least a few days to result. Even though these tests are somewhat better than the proposed saliva test, we don’t really get to use the results in a timely fashion, so they are of no use in the short term.

Having a rapid test that would at least give us an idea if a patient is infectious to other individuals (which is part of the purpose of the saliva test) would be very useful, and we could run it immediately upon their arrival in the ER.

A saliva test would also help staff members when they just want a general screening or may feel sick.

Affordable saliva tests could be a game-changer. The primary reason the economy is still struggling is because of all the COVID-19 uncertainty, and these tests could give us a great deal more information in a much quicker fashion.

The Yale lab that created Saliva Direct plans to make it available to labs for free, and labs will start offering them right away. The test looks promising, and we expect to see more streamlined, other faster tests soon.

Bottom Line

Several testing modalities are still in the works. Easy-to-get sample choices or finger pricks are [being looked at]. Some, should they pan out, really will make a difference. We can do a whole lot of good with a really accessible test.

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