New saliva test authorized could be used in RI if labs decide to use it

Coronavirus
12 on 12: Vaccine 101

Correction: A previous version of this story implied the saliva tests could be used in schools. It’s been updated to show the state has purchased rapid antigen tests for schools.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — School districts around the country are still trying to figure out how they can reopen schools safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SalivaDirect COVID-19 diagnostic test was developed by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health.

According to the FDA, SalivaDirect does not require the use of swabs and can be collected in any sterile container.

Authorization of the test is “significant,” according to the FDA, because the extraction kits used in other tests have been prone to shortages in the past. Therefore, being able to perform a test without the kits “enhances the capacity for increased testing, while reducing the strain on available resources,” according to a news release from the FDA.

Additionally, officials say the test’s methodology has been validated and authorized for use with “different combinations of commonly used reagents and instruments,” meaning the test could be used broadly in most high-complexity labs.

Dr. Angela Caliendo, the co-chair of Rhode Island’s COVID-19 Testing and Validation Task Force, says it may take a while for labs to start be able to collect the tests, if they decide to use it at all.

“It will unlikely be adapted in any of the clinical-based laboratories in the state. It could be adapted in the state laboratory,” she said. “More likely, other labs in the state or in the region may run it and we would have another testing site in order to send samples to.”

On the topic of new rapid antigen tests purchased for schools, Caliendo discussed why they would be beneficial.

“Kids that are symptomatic can be tested, and then the results would be available that same day,” Caliendo said. “They can make decisions on quarantining the student, whether or not everybody else in the classroom can stay in school.”

The new saliva tests are also said to produce rapid results.

The National Basketball Association helped fund the saliva test’s development and have been using it, along with the traditional swab tests, while in the bubble.

According to ESPN, researchers at Yale say the results of both kinds of tests “almost universally matched.”

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