Saliva Testing Offers Alternative to Nose Swab
Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS) announced at the end of August that it now offers saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Experts are hailing this breakthrough as a fast and inexpensive option to test for COVID-19.
Saliva offers a much easier and non-invasive way to collect samples than the unpleasant nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs. By using saliva more frequently, testing centers can also ease the heavy burden on the overtaxed supply chain currently required for traditional tests. This may allow tests to be processed more rapidly, without the frustrating delays so many have experienced in past months.
“The SalivaDirect test for rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 [the novel coronavirus] is yet another testing innovation game changer that will reduce the demand for scarce testing resources,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, the US official in charge of coronavirus testing efforts.
NIH Invests in New Testing Technologies
Beyond SalivaDirect, other organizations are also investing millions of dollars into new technologies to address challenges associated with COVID-testing. The NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative just invested $248.7 million into biomedical diagnostic companies and technologies with the promise to increase the number, type, and availability of tests by millions per week.
“RADx moved incredibly quickly to select promising technologies through its ‘shark tank’ approach, investing in technologies that could boost America’s best-in-the-world COVID-19 testing capacity by millions more tests per day,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “These technologies will help deliver faster results from labs and more and more test results within minutes at the point of care, which is especially important for settings like schools and nursing homes.”
The Answer to Testing Dilemma Compared to “Instant Coffee”
Most people would choose a craft latte over instant coffee, but according to experts, the key to controlling the coronavirus pandemic could be accepting the “instant coffee” of COVID-19 tests.
The “craft latte” tests of the world are deluxe antigen tests manufactured by Mesa Biotech, Dickinson, and others granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. These tests are highly accurate, but also costly with longer turnaround times.
In contrast, the “instant coffee” tests are rapid paper antigen tests. They cost only a fraction of a deluxe antigen test and deliver results on the spot, much like a home pregnancy test. Though these tests offer less sensitivity than their more expensive counterparts, they’re easy to use on a daily basis.
However, these tests aren’t available to the public yet. The FDA has not granted EUAs to developers of rapid paper antigen tests, which means they can’t yet be manufactured for widescale use. The time may come in the future for these DIY tests to become a normal part of our new pandemic routine, just like face masks and social distancing.