UGA develops saliva test for COVID-19 to replace nasal swabs

UGA develops saliva test for COVID-19 to replace nasal swabs
University Health Center clinical assistant Patricia Brathwaite explains how to take the COVID-19 saliva test to graduate student Mallory Lind at the COVID-19 surveillance testing site at Legion Field. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA) (Andrew Davis Tucker/Andrew Davis Tucker)

ATHENS, Ga. — A group of UGA researchers have developed a saliva-based COVID-19 test that the university plans to make the primary type of test across campus this semester.

The new test was developed by UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine and started being offered on campus on Jan. 4.

“The test has been proven to be just as accurate as the nasopharyngeal swab-based test. It’s also able to detect the COVID-19 variants that have recently been all over the news,” officials said. “But it’s infinitely more comfortable for the people being tested, requiring a sample of only 1 milliliter of saliva.”

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The test eliminates the need for swabs and other medical equipment and provide an alternative for people on blood-thinning medications or people who have a history of nosebleeds.

The tests do not need to be administered by health care professionals and can even be self-administered.

The veterinary diagnostic laboratories at UGA run complex diagnostic tests regularly, so technicians were already familiar with the ins and outs of how to create a test for COVID-19.

“That gave us a leg up, so we were able to start testing very quickly,” said Susan Sanchez, a professor of infectious diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine, head of microbiology and molecular biology in the lab and director of One Health at UGA.

It’s unclear if the tests developed at UGA will be made available to the general public in the coming days.

The FDA has already approved a similar test developed by SUNY in upstate New York for emergency use authorization.