How Does COVID-19 Saliva Testing Work?

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Update Date 17/06/2020 . 4 mins read
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Mass testing for COVID-19 is not an easy feat. The current methods of testing available can produce false negative results, and thus multiple tests are required to get an accurate result. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved saliva testing for COVID-19 as a more reliable and convenient means of testing.

Scientists are now looking to saliva testing for COVID-19

When it comes to combating COVID-19, mass testing is essential.

Mass testing can help identify infected individuals to treat and isolate them in order to prevent the further spread of the virus.

However, the current methods of testing available are not consistent, and can show false-positive results. People who had been tested also shared that it was uncomfortable, since samples need to be scraped from deep inside the nose using a long swab.

Researchers, however, have found evidence that the viral load of a person with COVID-19 can be detected through saliva. RUCDR Infinite Biologics at Rutgers University in the US has developed a method of saliva testing for COVID-19. And the FDA has already approved its use.

Compared to the regular means of testing, saliva testing showed no false positives and fewer false-negative results. This means that saliva testing can provide more accurate and consistent results.

How then is testing done using saliva?

All that a person needs to do is to spit into a container filled with a preservative liquid, which is then sent out for processing. Just like swab tests, saliva tests would also require a PCR machine in order to process the samples.

As of the moment, the turnaround time is roughly 72 hours. However, testing could possibly be done in a few hours with the right infrastructure in place.

Saliva testing for COVID-19 is also safer since people who want to get tested can just send their samples. They do not need to be in contact with someone else, unlike with swab testing. It is also cheaper and much easier to get samples compared to the current methods of testing available.

However, it will still take time before this method of testing gets approved for use in other countries. Additionally, it also requires certain chemicals and testing equipment. However, this could be a potential breakthrough that can help with mass testing.

What does a high viral load mean?

Simply put, viral load is the amount of virus in a person. For infectious diseases, a high viral load means that a person is highly contagious, and a low viral load means that a person is less contagious.

Researchers found that the viral load of COVID-19 was consistently high in the saliva, which makes it a good source of samples for testing.

However, this also means that saliva from a person with COVID-19 can infect other people. This is another reason why wearing a face mask is important to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The current state of COVID-19 testing in the Philippines

In the Philippines, mass testing is key when it comes to combating COVID-19. However, the options available for getting tested are limited and can take a long time to get results.

Right now, 2 types of tests are available in the country. First is the rapid test kit, which uses blood samples to test for antibodies. Second is the RT-PCR or the swab test.

The rapid test kit, like its name implies, can provide the results faster. Compared to the RT-PCR, the rapid test kit is also cheaper. The problem lies in that the accuracy of the test kit depends on the quality of the kit itself, and varies depending on the manufacturer.

Rapid test kits measure the level of antibodies in a person. But if the person has just been infected, or does not have enough antibodies, then it can show a false negative result.

On the other hand, the RT-PCR is more accurate, and can detect COVID-19 even in asymptomatic patients. But the challenge is that it takes longer for the results to come out, and I is also prone to human error. It can also show false-positive as well as false-negative results.

The RT-PCR is also more expensive, and not all laboratories have the equipment necessary for this type of test.

Because of these limitations, not everyone is able to get tested for COVID-19. Those who are suspected cases or who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 are higher in the priority list. Priority is also given to the elderly, frontliners, and those who are at high risk for COVID-19.

What can you do to stay safe?

It has been 3 months since the quarantine has been implemented in Luzon. And despite the best efforts of our frontliners, the number of people getting infected with COVID-19 is still rising.

Despite the declaration of a less strict general quarantine, it is still very important for people to practice safety procedures in order to avoid getting infected or spreading the disease. Here are some important tips to remember:

  • If possible, try to stay at home and avoid going outside in order to minimize contact with other people.
  • When you need to go outside, be sure to wear a face mask, and keep your distance from others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Disinfect your surroundings to minimize the spread of disease.
  • If you feel any symptoms that may be due to the virus, try to get tested and isolate yourself if you are with your family.

These measures should help lower your risk of being infected with COVID-19.

Learn more about COVID-19 here

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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