Saliva Testing – What we Need for the Next Covid Pandemic

The world needs better diagnostic testing right now more than ever.  With the appearance of Covid-19, we find ourselves needing a fast, easy, and accurate method of testing millions of people.  The nasopharyngeal swab currently used for Covid-19 is a crutch to help the world begin testing, but it is not going to support the worldwide level of testing that will lift us out of this or similar future crises.  Disliked both by caregivers and patients, the nasal swab is an invasive and painful procedure which involves inserting a swab deep into the nose.  It is hard to imagine the public lining up by the millions to volunteer for this type of test, and the word will quickly spread to friends and family about the unpleasant experience.  That reaction is not going to drive the grassroots word of mouth promotion that will unite us in large scale testing.

Enter the holy grail of diagnostics testing: the saliva test.  In almost every diagnostic sector, the arrival of the saliva test has caused user adoption to soar.  Saliva based collection is completely painless, effortless, and requires no skill to administer.  Caregivers can obtain the collection from a safe distance, dramatically reducing their risk of exposure.  Rutgers recently announced that the FDA granted EUA approval for a modified Thermo Fisher Covid assay using saliva samples (article here).  Key Tech has helped companies with similar challenges around saliva collection and testing.  Key Tech recently supported OraSure, a company focused on large-scale adoption of HIV testing, in the design and prototyping of higher confidence saliva-based collection methods.  Key Tech leveraged user research and ergonomics to develop a saliva collection method that was comfortable to the user, promoted strong use compliance, and integrated seamlessly into their assay.  The result is a process that leaves users willing to promote the experience to others.  And it’s this type of reaction that we need from a well-designed saliva-based Covid test, allowing the widespread scale of up of world testing.  We need to think about the future, and plan for what the experts are saying will surely happen again, likely with increased frequency.

Brian Murphy

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