TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona State University says it has found a way to make coronavirus testing safer and easier. The university's Biodesign Institute created Arizona's first saliva-based COVID-19 test.
Samples are collected using a straw, which is put inside a medical tube. You simply spit into the straw until the tube is filled. ASU said the samples can be taken anywhere.
"Companies that decide they want to do more routine testing of their personnel, make sure everyone stays safe, could arrange to have tubes at their site and collect the tubes," said Joshua LaBaer, ASU's Biodesign Institute executive director. He said the FDA gave ASU the green light for saliva testing.
"We are already using it in our routine testing," said LaBaer. "In fact, I was just downstairs here at The Biodesign Institute where we're running tests on our own people, and we're doing the saliva test there."
Unlike swab testing, you don't need a nurse to help you collect samples. "The process of having a swab stick put in your nose can induce coughing, sneezing, all of which would spray the medical personnel with potential virus," said LaBaer.
The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a saliva test for "emergency use" for diagnosing Covid-19. Rutgers University, where the test was developed in collaboration with other groups, announced the FDA authorization on Tuesday after formally receiving it over the weekend.
At the lab, two workers double-check that each sample belongs to the right person. A robot takes it from there to test the sample. Results come back within 48 hours. ASU says this is just as effective as the swab test.
"I really believe that this will open up testing a lot in the state of Arizona to make it much more available to people so they can get it done more easily," said LaBaer. "We're beginning to think of ways we might even open up a public site for samples for testing."
We asked a doctor at Nod Specialists to weight in on what they thought of the test.
“As we are still facing significant challenges with COVID-19 testing, this new test is a great step in optimizing the testing capacity, efficient sample collection, more cost-effective process and able to expand the testing at a larger scale," said Dr. Madhu Murthy, founder and chief medical officer of Nod. "We definitely need more data on the test sensitivity and specificity, as well as results reporting time. Overall, this new saliva-based test kit has the potential to make a big impact on making the COVID-19 screening process much easier.“