MONDAY, April 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus can be an unpleasant affair, with a doctor or nurse shoving a cotton swab deep into your nasal cavity to get a good sample.
But results that are just as accurate can be obtained from a more easily acquired saliva sample, a new Yale study reports.
Saliva samples taken from just inside the mouth were more accurate and consistent than deep nasal swabs taken from 44 patients and 98 health care workers, the researchers reported.
For instance, saliva samples detected the coronavirus in two health care workers without symptoms who’d previously been cleared by a deep nasal swab, the Yale researchers said.
“We found it performs as well as, and in a number of cases better, than the nasopharyngeal swab,” said lead researcher Anne Wyllie, an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn. “We have another very viable option.”
The findings were published April 22 on medRxiv, a preprint server for emerging research.
Switching to saliva testing would have many advantages over taking deep nasal samples, Wyllie said.
Saliva testing requires far fewer materials, and thus would be more immune to the supply chain problems that have hampered efforts to expand COVID-19 testing through deep nasal swabs, Wyllie said.
“There wouldn’t be a shortage of things to collect the saliva sample in, because there are so many options that are possible,” Wyllie said, adding that any collection cup or container could be reused after it’s been disinfected.
Health care workers also would need to wear less personal protective equipment when taking a saliva sample compared with a nasopharyngeal swab, Wyllie said.
Nasopharyngeal testing involves inserting a swab deep into the nose, into the region of the pharynx. The swab is then rotated to collect secretion before it’s yanked out and sent off to a lab.
“Taking the swab itself can cause patients to sneeze or cough, which carries a lot of risk to the health care workers,” Wyllie said.