Ask Dr. Nandi: FDA authorizes COVID-19 saliva test for emergency use

Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 21:52:41-04

(WXYZ) — A new testing method to diagnose COVID-19 kicks off today. It’s a saliva test that was recently authorized for emergency use by the FDA. And it’s expected to have a significant impact when it comes to safety and the number of people that can be tested on a daily basis.

It’s a pretty easy test – it’s designed to look for the presence of the coronavirus in salvia. All that is required is for you to spit into a vial that’s filled with a preservative. Then the test gets sent to a lab and results can take between 24 and 48 hours. But it’s important to know that you can’t eat, drink, chew gum or smoke for 30 minutes beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll be rescheduled.

Right now it’s only available in Edison, New Jersey. We don’t know yet when it’ll expand to other locations as this is just getting started. But the company did say that they can supply over a million tests a month. And that they have the capacity to produce up to 5 million down the road.

The FDA is working with developers regarding home COVID-19 tests. But as of right now, they have not authorized any that you can buy and have mailed to you. So for this new saliva test, it must be performed under the guidance of a healthcare worker. But it’s possible that you could self-administered the test in the safety of your own home, if for example, you’re having a telehealth call with a doctor or medical professional.

Question: How is this safer than nasal swabs for our health care workers?

It’s a lot safer than nasal swabs for a couple of reasons. A health care worker has to get fairly close to a potentially infectious person in order to swab their nose or throat. And the swab can actually cause a person to sneeze all over the healthcare worker, which obviously is not good.

Whereas with this saliva test, it can be handed to the potentially infectious person and when done, it gets handed back. So less exposure and less risk for our frontline healthcare workers.

Plus it would help preserve personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. And we’d use fewer swabs which we currently have a low supply of.

And on top of all that, for anyone who is infected or feeling crummy, the salvia test is much more comfortable than having a swab placed far up into your nostril or into the back of your throat.

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