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University of Utah Health and ARUP Conduct Saliva Testing for COVID-19 Study

Jun 02, 2020



Individuals tested for COVID-19 at University of Utah Health's Redwood Center in-car testing site may now participate in a study that evaluates whether saliva and other specimen types can be effectively used to test for COVID-19. The study is a collaboration between U of U Health and ARUP Laboratories.

The purpose of this study is to validate COVID-19 tests on different specimen types to determine less invasive options for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Current testing for the virus requires the insertion of a long, flexible swab into the nostril to collect secretions from the back of the nose and throat. This is called a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, and typically causes patients to cough or sneeze.

"We are studying whether swabs obtained from the front part of the nose and/or saliva are effective alternatives to a deep nasal swab," said Kim Hanson, MD, ARUP section chief of clinical microbiology and an infectious diseases physician at the U of U. "These alternative sample types are easier to obtain and may be more comfortable for patients. In addition, healthcare providers would also be more protected because patients could collect the specimens themselves."

Volunteers for the study will have a NP specimen collected by U of U Health medical assistants as a part of standard care. Volunteers also will provide two other specimens they collect themselves -- saliva they spit into a collection tube and secretions swabbed from the front part of both nostrils.

ARUP hopes to enroll about 1,000 participants in the study with the expectation of about 100 test results that are positive for COVID-19 with that number. ARUP will compare positive results across all three specimens to validate the accuracy of the tests on the alternative specimen types. Hanson anticipates it will be about a month before researchers know whether the new tests are valid.

"Working together with ARUP, University of Utah Health continues to make patient testing for COVID-19 a priority for the state of Utah and our health care system," said Richard Orlandi, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Ambulatory Health at University of Utah Health. "We support research for COVID-19 that could benefit U of U Health patients and their future healthcare."

The tests are the latest in a suite of tests ARUP has validated to diagnose, monitor, and treat COVID-19. A nonprofit enterprise of the University of Utah, ARUP provides COVID-19 molecular diagnostic and IgG antibody testing for U of U Health and many other clients in Utah and nationwide.