Saliva tests for COVID-19 could replace nasal swabs

The University of Queensland

Thursday, 04 June, 2020

Saliva tests for COVID-19 could replace nasal swabs

Saliva could be humanity’s best friend in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Dr Pingping Han from The University of Queensland (UQ).

Dr Han explained that saliva can be used to diagnose the presence and transmission of COVID-19, and to monitor immunity to SARS-Cov-2. Indeed, she noted that the US FDA recently approved the first SARS-CoV-2 test that will allow people to collect their own saliva at home and send it to a lab for results.

“Ironically saliva is a leading way that disease is transmitted, via droplets on surfaces and in the air, but it can also be incredibly useful to us for diagnosing the virus and monitoring a person’s health,” Dr Han said.

“Saliva testing allows quick, accurate and non-invasive detection in symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, as well as determination of a patient’s immune status.

“It is ideal for effective, large-scale pandemic control measures to prevent COVID-19’s spread.”

Dr Han and her team recently conducted a review into the three clinical studies on salivary diagnostics available at the time of writing, published in the journal Diagnostics. It outlines the potential mechanism saliva uses to transmit the virus, and how saliva is a readily accessible diagnostic tool for detecting the virus’s presence.

“Saliva is easy to access, collecting samples is non-invasive and the procedure to diagnose COVID-19 is low cost,” she noted.

Dr Han said she wants researchers, clinicians, policymakers and the public to understand saliva’s value in the coronavirus pandemic, and hopes her review will guide the development of environmental and therapeutic strategies to reduce transmission of the virus and help minimise risks to health professionals and others.

“Further studies into microbial pathogens such as bacteria and viruses and immunological antibodies are urgently required, to help validate saliva for future routine specimen collections, in this and future pandemics,” Dr Han said.

Image credit: © Naumov

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