Researchers in Japan have demonstrated a quick and effective mass testing approach using saliva samples to detect individuals who have been infected with COVID-19 but are still not showing symptoms. Rapid detection of asymptomatic infected individuals is necessary to prevent community transmission.
Countries and governments around the world are hesitating to initiate national lockdown. Testing and tracking are the best available resources to detect and isolate people with the disease. Nasopharyngeal swabs and saliva samples of non-COVID patients in almost 2,000 people in Japan were tested and compared. Two distinct virus amplification tests were performed on most of the samples: the PCR test, which is now well-known and widely available around the world, and the less commonly used but faster and more portable RT-LAMP test.
The positive and negative results in all samples were very similar, with the nasopharyngeal swabs and saliva samples able to detect those with the infection in 77-93% and 83-97% of subjects, respectively. The tests were also able to identify those without the infection in 99.9% of subjects. The virus loads spotted in nasopharyngeal swab and saliva were equivalent and highly linked. This research is proof that saliva testing has substantial logistic advantages over the commonly used nasopharyngeal swab testing. It could provide easy, non-invasive, quick, and relatively accurate results, with minimal risk of viral transmission to healthcare workers.
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