Yale saliva-based COVID-19 test gets FDA emergency use approval

Like a hydra, the COVID-19 coronavirus has multiple issues that need to be tackled, all at the same time even. From treatment to developing vaccines to contact tracing to testing, the world's healthcare systems and medical scientists are scrambling to make procedures, tools, and materials work faster and be more accessible. The Yale School of Public Health has just contributed an important weapon in the fight against the virus with what may be the least invasive form of COVID-19 testing yet.

There are now different established ways of testing for the deadly virus, depending on the desired accuracy and speed of results. There are those that involve drawing blood samples, for example, but the most known ones are the rather uncomfortable nose or oral swabs. These have been considered to have the highest chances of success in detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus but Yale researchers discovered a less invasive way to do so.

Yale School of Public Health assistant professor Nathan Grubaugh and associate research scientist Anne Wyllie worked on using saliva as a promising sample type for detection. That alone may already make the test less daunting but there are other properties that make this "SalivaDirect" method more economical and ultimately more accessible.

For one, it works with reagents and instruments from multiple vendors so clinics and labs won't be locked in with a specific vendor. It also makes the use of expensive saliva collection tubes unnecessary since the virus can be preserved in saliva at warm temperatures and won't need preservatives or specialized tubes. The researchers estimate that a test could cost only $10 per sample.

Fortunately, they aren't interested in commercializing SalivaDirect, which has just been granted the FDA's emergency use authorization. Making it easier and cheaper to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus could give healthcare systems around the world the advantage they need to get a handle on the pandemic while waiting for a vaccine to become a reality.