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New saliva test could simplify how we diagnose coronavirus

Two LSU doctors working on the project say it is as accurate as the nasal swab tests.

NEW ORLEANS — What if you could get tested for the coronavirus without a nose swab?

You may have seen in the last couple of months that there are at home saliva tests that got FDA emergency use approval. Now, Louisiana researchers have one that they are trying out on school students. 

If you’ve had that nasopharyngeal swab, known as an NP swab, for the coronavirus test or any other respiratory infection, you know it can be uncomfortable. That’s because it goes so deep. Now, two Baton Rouge researchers have developed a saliva test to track coronavirus infections. 

"In the spring, people were looking at saliva as an alternative that’s easier to collect, not as uncomfortable, not nearly as invasive and it would maybe incentivizes people to come back for testing," explained Dr. Rebecca Christofferson, an Assistant Professor at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Christofferson and Dr. Stephania Cormier, at LSU Pennington, teamed up with Louisiana Health Department and Our Lady Of The Lake Hospital to run a pilot program on teachers and students Kindergarten through twelfth grade at a Baton Rouge school. 

"We’re not bringing this to market. This is mostly just for response to the public health emergency. These are not things we invented. They are things that we already patented that we’re just putting together," she said. 

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They say it is as accurate as the NP swab tests. The saliva samples still have to go to a lab where technicians test them for the coronavirus. They are doing that at Pennington. And since there isn’t a massive amount of tests coming in, they can turn the results around in a day. 

"I wouldn’t expect that the saliva tests are going to suddenly overturn NP swabs for diagnostic clinical setting, but I think in a public health surveillance and repeated testing setting, this definitely has potential," said Dr. Christofferson. 

Dr. Christofferson says the saliva test may be something that’s considered for the LSU community when the school reopens. And maybe businesses will want to take this idea and mass produce for the public. 

This saliva coronavirus test is not available for the public or any other schools right now. 

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