US coronavirus: New saliva-based Covid-19 test could be a fast and cheap ‘game

Researchers from the Yale School of Public Health created the SalivaDirect test, which received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.

“The SalivaDirect test for rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 [the novel coronavirus] is yet another testing innovation game changer that will reduce the demand for scarce testing resources,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, the US official in charge of Covid-19 testing efforts.

Unlike some other tests that require specialized supplies, the SalivaDirect test doesn’t require a specific swab or collection device. It can also be used with reagents from multiple vendors.

“We simplified the test so that it only costs a couple of dollars for reagents, and we expect that labs will only charge about $10 per sample,” said Nathan Grubaugh, a Yale assistant professor of epidemiology.

“If cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic, even before a vaccine.”

Researchers said the new test can produce results in less than three hours, and the accuracy is on par with results from traditional nasal swabbing. They said SalivaDirect tests could become publicly available in the coming weeks.
Yale plans to publish its protocol as “open-source,” meaning designated labs could follow the protocol to perform their own tests according to Yale’s instructions, the FDA said.

The NBA was among the groups that funded research for the test and currently uses the method to test for non-symptomatic carriers of the virus.

Testing declines in many states

The SalivaDirect news comes at a critical time, as 17 states are performing fewer tests this past week compared to the previous week, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
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While testing has gone down in 17 states, test positivity rates have increased in 34 states, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That means a higher percentage of tests being performed are turning out to be positive.

So while daily Covid-19 case counts are decreasing in parts of the US, some of those decreases are likely due to decreases in testing, said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

“Testing has also fallen by about 20% to 30%, and so the picture is a little bit muddy,” he said.

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What’s clearer is America’s disturbing trend of topping 1,000 Covid-19 deaths a day.

Through Saturday, the US has suffered more than 1,000 new deaths a day for 16 of the past 20 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

Jha said he’s hopeful the rate of deaths will go down.

“But even if it comes down to 800 deaths a day, that’s 24,000 Americans dying every month,” he said.


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