Saliva based rapid diagnostic Covid test gets FDA approval

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A saliva-based laboratory diagnostic test developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health to determine whether someone is infected with the novel coronavirus has been granted an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The method, called SalivaDirect, is being further validated as a test for asymptomatic individuals through a program that tests players and staff from the National Basketball Association (NBA). SalivaDirect is simpler, less expensive, and less invasive than the traditional method for such testing, known as nasopharyngeal (NP) swabbing. Results so far have found that SalivaDirect is highly sensitive and yields similar outcomes as NP swabbing.  

With the FDA’s emergency use authorization, the testing method is immediately available to other diagnostic laboratories that want to start using the new test, which can be scaled up quickly for use across the nation — and, perhaps, beyond — in the coming weeks, the researchers said. A key component of SalivaDirect, they note, is that the method has been validated with reagents and instruments from multiple vendors. This flexibility enables continued testing if some vendors encounter supply chain issues, as experienced early in the pandemic.

“This is a huge step forward to make testing more accessible,” said Chantal Vogels, a Yale postdoctoral fellow, who led the laboratory development and validation along with Doug Brackney, an adjunct assistant clinical professor. “This started off as an idea in our lab soon after we found saliva to be a promising sample type of the detection of SARS-CoV-2, and now it has the potential to be used on a large scale to help protect public health. We are delighted to make this contribution to the fight against coronavirus.”

SalivaDirect does not require any special type of swab or collection device; a saliva sample can be collected in any sterile container. This test is also unique because it does not require a separate nucleic acid extraction step. This is significant because the extraction kits used for this step in other tests have been prone to shortages in the past. Being able to perform a test without these kits enhances the capacity for increased testing, while reducing the strain on available resources. Additionally, the SalivaDirect methodology has been validated and authorized for use with different combinations of commonly used reagents and instruments, meaning the test could be used broadly in most high-complexity labs.

Yale intends to provide the SalivaDirect protocol to interested laboratories as an “open source” protocol, meaning that designated laboratories could follow the protocol to obtain the required components and perform the test in their lab according to Yale’s instructions for use. Because this test does not rely on any proprietary equipment from Yale and can use a variety of commercially available testing components, it can be assembled and used in high-complexity labs throughout the country, provided they comply with the conditions of authorization in the EUA.

 

“With saliva being quick and easy to collect, we realized it could be a game-changer in COVID-19 diagnostics,” said Wyllie. With testing urgently needed, the Yale team was determined to decrease both testing times and costs, to make testing widely accessible.

“Wide-spread testing is critical for our control efforts. We simplified the test so that it only costs a couple of dollars for reagents, and we expect that labs will only charge about $10 per sample. If cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic, even before a vaccine,” said Grubaugh. 

With inputs from Yale University news website. 



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