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FDA approves saliva COVID-19 test from Washington University in St. Louis

Published: Aug. 29, 2020 at 9:39 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KY3) - Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis collaborated with a California based biotechnology company, Fluidigm, to develop a new COVID-19 saliva test.

This week the FDA approved the tests, which researchers say give results in just a few hours. They hope this means patients could have their results back within the day.

The Washington University School of Medline worked with Fluidigm to create the tests. The university says it is a cheaper and faster test method. The test does not require swabs, and other lab supplies are currently in short supply.

“This is a significant advance in COVID-19 testing that is a simpler, faster and more economical test that can greatly expand our ability to detect the level of COVID-19 infection within the community via large-scale population screening for the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Professor Jeffrey Millbrandt said in a Washington University news release.

Instead of a nasal swab, people would simply provide a saliva sample by spitting into a small tube. The developers say the new tests are highly sensitive to detecting even small levels of the virus in a saliva sample.

They also say people would be able to collect their own samples without help from healthcare workers.

“People can collect the sample themselves, and it doesn’t require an uncomfortable nasal swab,” Milbrandt said in the release. “Another problem with current testing is the shortage of certain lab supplies that are required to process viral samples. We have developed a method to process the saliva samples that doesn’t require these specialized supplies.”

The tests do not require the same genetic material as current tests, something researchers say would allow this new test to be less time consuming and less expensive.

“There’s an urgent need to simplify testing for COVID-19 so that people who are infected can be easily and quickly identified,” said Washington University Professor Richard Head.

The goal of the new method is to allow rapid testing to a much larger number of people so people can get back to work and students can get back to school.

Earlier in the week, Gov. Mike Parson tweeted about the new tests saying it would help “increase testing volumes and improve turn around time for test results.”

The researchers say they believe they would be able to perform tens of thousands of saliva tests each week. There is also hope the saliva tests would help detect positive cases before people start showing symptoms or in those who are asymptomatic. On top of that, they say the tests have potential to test for other viruses even at the same time.

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