Studying the spit test: research suggests saliva testing could still play a role in COVID-19 assessments

A researcher at the Ottawa Hospital studied the feasibility of saliva testing as an assessment tool in remote communities or other challenging populations.
By: Heather Marie Connors
September 09, 2020
Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia

Dr. Stephanie Johnson-Obaseki is a head and neck cancer surgeon and researcher at the Ottawa Hospital. Having previously worked on HPV testing kits, when the pandemic hit she began to wonder if similar self-administered kits would work for COVID-19.

What followed was a study of 1939 people from the Ottawa Hospital’s COVID-19 assessment centre at Brewer arena earlier this year. The results, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, revealed that although the nasal swab test detects more cases, because the spit test is easier to administer it may still have a place in certain situations.

“I think it comes down to public health policy and our approach to testing,” Dr. Johnson-Obaseki told the Ottawa Citizen. “If we believe the right approach is to test more and reach more individuals, not only those who are sick but also asymptomatic, this is a way to reach those individuals.”

Saliva test kits are only available in Canada for experimental use, however Health Canada has recently indicated it is considering the kits for screening, not diagnostic, purposes.

Source: Ottawa Citizen


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