NBA players, staff already using saliva-based test extensively
A saliva-based laboratory diagnostic test developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health to determine whether someone is infected with the novel coronavirus has been granted an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The method, called SalivaDirect, is being further validated as a test for asymptomatic individuals through a program that tests players and staff from the National Basketball Association (NBA). SalivaDirect is simpler, less expensive, and less invasive than the traditional method for such testing, known as nasopharyngeal (NP) swabbing. Results so far have found that SalivaDirect is highly sensitive and yields similar outcomes as NP swabbing.
With the FDA’s emergency use authorization, the testing method is immediately available to other diagnostic laboratories that want to start using the new test, which can be scaled up quickly for use across the nation—and, perhaps, beyond—in the coming weeks, the researchers said. A key component of SalivaDirect, they note, is that the method has been validated with reagents and instruments from multiple vendors. This flexibility enables continued testing if some vendors encounter supply chain issues, as experienced early in the pandemic.
“This is a huge step forward to make testing more accessible,” said Chantal Vogels, a Yale postdoctoral fellow, who led the laboratory development and validation along with Doug Brackney, an adjunct assistant clinical professor. “This started off as an idea in our lab soon after we found saliva to be a promising sample type of the detection of SARS-CoV-2, and now it has the potential to be used on a large scale to help protect public health. We are delighted to make this contribution to the fight against coronavirus.” The preprint on the development and validation of SalivaDirect was recently posted on medRxiv.
Development of SalivaDirect as a means of rapidly expanding SARS-CoV-2 testing was spearheaded this spring by Nathan Grubaugh and Anne Wyllie, assistant professor and associate research scientist, respectively, at Yale School of Public Health. After finding saliva to be a promising sample type for SARS-CoV-2 detection, they wanted to improve the method further
“With saliva being quick and easy to collect, we realized it could be a game-changer in COVID-19 diagnostics,” said Wyllie. With testing urgently needed, the Yale team was determined to decrease both testing times and costs, to make testing widely accessible.