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Research Shows Saliva Test For COVID-19 As Effective As Nasal Swab Test

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – New research done by teams with University of Utah Health and ARUP Laboratories show saliva testing for COVID-19 is just as effective as the deep nasal swab test many people have had.

“We’re excited based on the results,” said Dr. Kimberly Hanson, an infectious disease physician with University of Utah Health. “We’re able to show with pretty robust confidence that we think in our statistics, that saliva looks to be just as effective as the standard deep swab.”

Their study is based on research involving more than 350 people, who volunteered to be tested at the Redwood Clinic.

It showed COVID-19 was detected in 90% of the patients who truly ended up testing positive for the virus, which doctors said is nearly the same positivity rate as the nasal swab.

“It’s gone through the scientific process, the peer review process, and is now published electronically in a high-quality medical journal, and I think that answers a lot of those concerns about is this really a valid test. It clearly is,” said Dr. Richard Orlandi, chief medical officer with University of Utah Health.

Patients spit into a tube to a designated fill line.

That tube is then capped, sealed and given to the medical worker administering the test.

At this point, even though it’s an easy test, doctors said it’s not one anyone can do at home just yet for quality control concerns.

“At this point, the FDA only authorizes saliva testing if the sample is collected in a healthcare facility or being observed by a healthcare worker,” said Dr. Julio Delgado, chief medical officer with ARUP.

The saliva test is less invasive for patients and safer for healthcare workers collecting the sample.

“Because spitting saliva into a tube is less likely to generate infectious aerosols,” said Hanson. “So, the providers helping to collect the saliva sample may not need to wear all the heavy personal protective equipment that we have them wear for the deeper sampling.”

Test results can be known in eight to 10 hours for high priority patients showing symptoms who may need to be hospitalized.

For people not showing symptoms using drive-thru testing sites, results can generally come back in 24 to 48 hours.

Doctors hope to have the test ready for the public to begin using in Utah in a couple of weeks.

The group’s research test publication can be found here.

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