New Saliva-Based COVID-19 Test Could Detect Virus Within Hours

A new test for COVID-19 that promises to deliver results within three hours has been granted emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

The good news? The method, called SalivaDirect, costs only $10, making it far cheaper that previous COVID-19 tests that often run as much as $150. The great news? You don't have to use a nasal swab. Instead, a person's saliva is collected and is broken down with an enzyme and applied heat. The test can even be used for asymptomatic carriers.

“This is a huge step forward to make testing more accessible,” said Chantal Vogels, a Yale postdoctoral fellow, who led the laboratory development and validation along with Doug Brackney, an adjunct assistant clinical professor. “This started off as an idea in our lab soon after we found saliva to be a promising sample type of the detection of SARS-CoV-2, and now it has the potential to be used on a large scale to help protect public health. We are delighted to make this contribution to the fight against coronavirus.”

The new test was developed by Yale's School of Public Health and was driven by Nathan Grubaugh and Anne Wylliee, assistant professor and associate research scientist, respectively, at Yale School of Public Health.

“With saliva being quick and easy to collect, we realized it could be a game-changer in COVID-19 diagnostics,” said Wyllie.

Some experts predict that as the coronavirus pandemic continues, the United States will need up to 4 million tests per day to help fight against the spread of the virus.

"I think it will take weeks, if not longer, for this test to become more widely available," Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt University said. "But as it comes online, I think people will like it much better than the more intrusive nasal swab test."

The researchers say they are not looking to commercialize the test, but rather want their simplified method of testing for COVID-19 to get out to as many diagnostic laboratories as possible to help those most in need. Laboratory delays and shortages of tests have been a major stumbling block for health officials in the fight against the pandemic.

Photo: Getty Images

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