A saliva test for COVID-19 is to be piloted in Southampton, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.
Over 14,000 GP staff, other essential key workers and university staff and their households will participate in the first phase of the trial. Participants will be able to complete coronavirus tests at home by putting their saliva into a sample pot to be tested for current infections of the virus.
GP staff, other essential key workers, university employees and members of their households will be among the first groups to participate in the pilot, with test kits delivered either to their home or place of work for them to complete every week.
‘The health, social and economic impacts of lockdown cannot be underestimated,’ said Professor Keith Godfrey, University of Southampton.
‘Through this initiative we believe we can contribute to safely restoring economic activity within the city and region during national relaxation measures, whilst enabling people to regain their lives, work and education.’
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the saliva test will be significant to increasing testing capacity and accessibility as it does not require the use of a swab, which some people find uncomfortable. The test has already been shown to be highly promising and the pilot is undertaking further validation against polymerase chain reaction nasal swabs.
Weekly testing as part of the pilot will help to identify coronavirus cases early on, including for those with no or minor symptoms, meaning those who test positive can isolate within their households. The details of those who test positive will be shared with the NHS Test and Trace programme so contact tracing can start immediately.
‘Saliva testing could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs. This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier,’ said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘I am very grateful to everyone involved in the trial who is helping us develop our understanding of the virus which will benefit not only our but the global response to it.’