COVID-19 testing

Public Health Experts Weigh in on Efficacy of Nasal vs Saliva COVID-19 Tests

Some public health experts are debating whether nasal swabs versus saliva-based tests are most effective in detecting Covid-19

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Studies are continuing to be conducted on what is the best way to detect the presence of COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic nasal-based tests have been used to detect the presence of the SARS CoV-2 virus.

Nasopharyngeal swabs which go deep into the nasal passage were used to detect the virus and now a shallow nasal swab is often used to detect the presence of the virus.

Some studies have shown that saliva-based tests may detect the virus earlier than a nasal swab which could be key in preventing transmission of the virus.

“It's not a surprise that some people in their early studies are finding that they're finding more of it early on the disease and the mouth than they're finding in the nasal cavity. So that suggests that you're finding more Covid in the mouth and you know, while that could be important from an epidemiological standpoint in terms of stopping the spread of this disease earlier on where we are as a community right now is, we're not exactly at that point where we can sort of switch gears immediately,” UC San Diego Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. David Pride said.

Some infectious disease experts say the nasal swabs are sufficient and more studies need to be done before making a sizeable shift on a large scale to another testing method like saliva-based tests.

“It could be effective making the switch, I'm just not certain that the switch needs to happen. To be honest with you, what we see. As you can imagine, our positivity rate right now is extraordinarily high, which is telling us that we're actually pretty good using the nasal tests that we use right now at diagnosing covid,” Dr. Pride said.

Dr. Pride and other infectious disease specialists express that there are hurdles like many testing facilities don’t process saliva-based tests.

“Testing saliva or oral samples and mass is not nearly as easy as it might sound. One would kind of hope that you could just almost flip a coin and switched from testing a nasal swab to testing saliva. But it's really something that usually takes months of works for different individuals’ institutions to make that sort of transition,” Dr. Pride said.

Dr. Pride said he is pleased to see that testing efforts overall are being ramped up to meet the demand but more still needs to be done.

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