This way of collecting samples has already attracted interest from the White House and officials from New York, Illinois and other states seeking to ramp up testing quickly, said Andrew Brooks, chief operating officer at Rutgers University’s RUCDR Infinite Biologics, where the approach was pioneered.
“You will see a lot of it really soon,” Brooks told me, adding that he’s also gotten inquiries from people in South Korea and China on the subject.
Saliva is already widely used in genetic testing.
The swabs needed for nasal and throat testing have been in such short supply that President Trump has used the Defense Production Act to compel an unnamed company to produce them.
Collecting saliva samples, which can then be analyzed using the same equipment used for swab testing, could help reduce the need for more swabs.
Rutgers researchers developed a saliva-based test that detects infections of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, using saliva collection devices similar to those used by genetic testing companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com.
And Oklahoma noticed. The state was already working with Oklahoma State University’s diagnostic laboratory to expand its testing capacity. Elizabeth Pollard, who spent her career working on genetic testing before becoming Oklahoma’s deputy secretary of science and innovation earlier this year, saw Brooks discussing the test on the news and reached out. “I chuckled because Dr. Brooks had been a long-term friend and colleague,” Pollard told my colleague Juliet Eilperin in a phone interview Friday. “We didn’t need to re-create the wheel.”
The OSU lab has now independently validated the test first created at Rutgers and has applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, so the test can be conducted more broadly. Pollard said she expects the state will get approval soon, telling Juliet it “will certainly open up our testing options and make it easier to test within nursing homes.”
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