Saliva samples preferable for COVID-19 testing – Yale study


Saliva samples preferable for COVID-19 testing - Yale study
A member of medical staff swabs the mouth of a resident as she is testing him for coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in Alexandra, South Africa, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

In Summary

  • For healthcare workers, collection of saliva samples by patients does not present a risk of infection.
  • But Canadian researchers employed an experimental saliva test kit and found that it might miss some mild or asymptomatic infections.
  • However, they agreed with the Yale researchers about the advantages of saliva tests.

Letting patients provide saliva samples for COVID-19 testing is easier and safer than swabbing the back of the nose and throat for samples to test, and the results are equally reliable, Yale University researchers said.

Writing on Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, they compared saliva and nasopharyngeal swab samples from 70 U.S. hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 495 asymptomatic healthcare workers, using gold-standard laboratory methods.

In both groups, the saliva tests and the nasopharyngeal swab tests showed similar sensitivity for detecting the virus.

For healthcare workers, unlike the collection of nasopharyngeal samples, collection of saliva samples by patients does not present a risk of infection and alleviates demands for supplies of swabs and personal protective equipment, the researchers said.

In a separate study on Friday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian researchers employed an experimental saliva test kit and found that it might miss some mild or asymptomatic infections.

But they agreed with the Yale researchers about the advantages of saliva tests and said they “may be of particular benefit for remote, vulnerable or challenging” patients.

New studies add to data on COVID-19 in children

Children are far less likely than adults to get severe cases of COVID-19, British doctors found. A

t 138 hospitals in Britain, through June, less than 1% of COVID-19 patients were children, and 99% survived.

Those who died had serious underlying health conditions.

“We can be quite sure that COVID in itself is not causing harm to children on a significant scale,” said Malcolm Semple of the University of Liverpool, co-author of research published on Thursday in BMJ.

While children’s risk for severe COVID-19 is low, Black children and obese children experienced higher risks.

A separate study published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics suggests the proportion of U.S. children with asymptomatic COVID-19 may be low.

At 28 hospitals, more than 33,000 children were tested during ear, nose and throat appointments or procedures. None were suspected of having the virus.

Fewer than 1% were asymptomatically infected. Even without symptoms, infected children can shed virus for weeks, Korean doctors said on Friday in the JAMA Pediatrics.

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