New saliva COVID-19 test deemed easier

CSRA News

There is a new way to track coronavirus in the CSRA. Augusta University is just one of three schools in the country to offer saliva testing.

There are two locations, one in Augusta and the other in Grovetown, giving children a new way to provide samples for COVID-19 tests. For some, it is a sigh of relief.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, Vice Chairman of Pathology at the Medical College of Georgia.

He told us, “The initial testing was getting a swab, the tip needs to go to the back of your nose. The same virus also stays in your mouth and saliva.”

Many adults take issue with how uncomfortable the COVID-19 nasal swab can be. Now, Augusta University Health is rolling out a new option, pediatric saliva testing. Dr. Kolhe said there are several reasons why the process is easier.

“The sample is not taken correctly,” he said. “With saliva, you can just spit in a cup and get a good sample. Number two, the process of taking the sample is relatively painless compared to the nasal swab. Most importantly, the health care workers who are taking the sample have less risk of exposure.”

Testing now takes place at the Augusta University Faculty Office Building, located at 1467 Harper St. in Augusta. Appointments can be made from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:00 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday. It is also at the Augusta University Care Center Grovetown Pediatrics, located at 305 West Robinson Avenue, in Grovetown. Appointments will be available from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Dr. Kolhe, who is director of the Georgia Esoteric and Molecular Laboratory, said research began on saliva testing when healthcare workers noticed a lack of swabs. After comparing 400+ nasal versus saliva samples, researchers concluded a saliva test could do the same job. He also said the data on AU Saliva testing has been submitted to the FDA and is currently under review. Based on FDA guidelines, CLIA laboratories are allowed to start testing awaiting FDA EUA approval (https://www.fda.gov/media/135659/download). 

And starting next week, adults will be able to take the same test.

“I am pleased to announce that starting on the 28th of September, we will be able to provide saliva testing in our drive up testing location. We are excited about that. We are excited to be only the third lab in the country to do that, Rutgers University and Yale being the other two,” Dr. Coule said during NewsChannel 6 at noon Monday. “We’re expecting that the turnaround time that we’ve been able to maintain here of less than 24 hours, we’ll be able to maintain with our saliva testing.

Adults can take saliva tests at AU Health’s COVID-19 drive thru specimen collection location on the Augusta University Health Sciences Campus at Annex II at 524 15th St. Appointments will be available from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

At this point, Dr. Kolhe said AU has not talked with the state of Georgia about providing saliva testing outside of the Augusta area.

While AU is awaiting FDA approval, he added that multiple academic laboratories like AU are in the process of validation of saliva as a sample type. He added he hopes their experience and data will be beneficial for them. The specs are publically available on a non-peer review publication here.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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