The problems with traditional nasal swab testing became apparent early in the pandemic. People did not like getting a long swab up their nose, it takes a trained professional to perform the test, and the chemicals needed to detect the coronavirus were quickly in short supply. Even President Donald Trump admitted the nasopharyngeal test was "not very nice."
The easier-to-use saliva test is now gaining ground eight months into the pandemic, according to Kaiser Health News. Some places like Los Angeles County have been using self-collected oral swabs since May. Now, tens of thousands of Americans are undergoing saliva testing nationally.
Yale School of Public Health researchers developed a COVID-19 testing method called SalivaDirect and used volunteers from the NBA — players, coaches, and staff — to test the product in June.
According to USA Today, Yale, the NBA, and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) partnered "to study the efficacy of a saliva-based method that quickly determines if someone is infected with the novel coronavirus." The NBPA has a buy-in, according to USA Today.
The test requires a small sample of saliva and, according to researchers at Yale, it is less expensive and less risky for healthcare workers to collect samples. It is also faster, reducing the time it takes to get results. Experts say that saliva samples would allow for broader and more accurate at-home testing that would improve overall testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Yale has provided its protocol to testing facilities in Minnesota, Florida, and New York, according to Kaiser Health News. The Food and Drug Administration has also authorized emergency use authorization to other saliva tests developed at various other universities. A saliva test that could be done at home is headed for FDA approval. Tests based on the Yale and University of Illinois protocols would cost only $10.
"There's tons of interest in an at-home saliva test," Yvonne Maldonado, an infectious disease expert at Stanford University School of Medicine, told Kaiser Health News. "You could basically send people a little packet with little strips, and you pull off a strip every day and put it under your tongue."
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