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FDA approves new saliva-based COVID-19 test developed at WashU

Missouri Gov. Parson announced it "is a major development in testing technology and will help us continue to increase testing volumes"

ST. LOUIS — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved what could be a major development in the fight against the coronavirus and the testing it takes to track it.

The FDA has approved a new saliva-based COVID-19 test.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson made the announcement during a live briefing Wednesday afternoon. He said it was just approved for use by the FDA. It was developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.

“This new saliva-based COVID-19 test… is a major development in testing technology and will help us continue to increase testing volumes and improve turnaround time for test results,” Gov. Parson said.

According to a release from Washington University, the saliva test was developed by a team from the Department of Genetics and the McDonnell Genome Institute, both at Washington University School of Medicine.

According to the researchers, the test will allow for rapid testing of large numbers of people.

“This is a significant advance in COVID-19 testing that is a simpler, faster and more economical test that can greatly expand our ability to detect the level of COVID-19 infection within the community via large-scale population screening for the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” said Jeffrey Milbrandt, MD, PhD, James S. McDonnell professor and head of the Department of Genetics and the McDonnell Genome Institute.

According to a release from the university, the ability to scale up the number of tests that can be conducted also has the potential to help St. Louis city and county, as well as the state of Missouri and regional businesses, reopen safely.

It also said the saliva tests could be given periodically to residents of nursing home and retirement communities, who are more vulnerable to infection because of age. Those who test positive could be quickly identified and quarantined.

“People can collect the sample themselves, and it doesn’t require an uncomfortable nasal swab,” Milbrandt said. “Another problem with current testing is the shortage of certain lab supplies that are required to process viral samples. We have developed a method to process the saliva samples that doesn’t require these specialized supplies.”

The new test allows individuals to provide a saliva sample instead of the long nasal swabs.

The test will be conducted at the McDonnell Genome Institute in the Genome Technology Access Center on the Washington University Medical Campus. 

Earlier this month, Washington University announced it was looking for 2,000 university employees or students to volunteer for a study focused on evaluating the feasibility of a large-scale, rapid COVID-19 saliva test. It was at least the second round of testing.


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