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Yale Scientists Find That Collecting Saliva May Be a Superior Way to Test for COVID-19

April 24, 2020
by Robert Forman

In a preprint article posted to the site medRxiv, Yale scientists have reported evidence that testing saliva may be superior to using nasopharyngeal (deep nasal) swabs as a way to reliably diagnose the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus causing the current COVID-19 pandemic. Testing saliva, they say, is also an easier process if validated because collection is minimally invasive and can be done by the patient without assistance.

The researchers tested samples obtained through both methods, from confirmed COVID-19 patients as well as health care workers on COVID-19 wards, and found that the results were more consistently accurate when obtained from saliva. The sensitivity of testing saliva was also found to be greater.

While, as a preprint, this study needs further review and validation, the authors write that the results point the way toward at-home self-administered sample collection that may set the stage for large scale testing for the novel coronavirus in the general population.

“You can simply hand over a cup to a patient, an individual, just anyone really, and just ask them to spit into that cup,” says Anne L. Wyllie, PhD, associate research scientist in epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, who was the study’s first author. “If you can just hand out a bunch of cups to a bunch of people, you could really get a lot more samples obtained from a much higher number of people in a much smaller time.”

The senior authors were Yale scientists Albert I. Ko, MD, chair and professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases) and professor of medicine (infectious diseases), and chair of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases; and Nathan D. Grubaugh, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases).

Submitted by Robert Forman on April 24, 2020