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Josh Szymanik, KSL TV

U of U Health switching to saliva COVID-19 tests

By Jed Boal, KSL TV | Posted - Sep. 14, 2020 at 8:22 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Teams at University of Utah Health are now primarily using saliva COVID-19 tests at five drive-thru sites instead of nasal swab kits.

The saliva test was developed by ARUP Laboratories, a nonprofit enterprise of the University of Utah.

The nasal swab coronavirus tests are widely considered to be uncomfortable, if not painful.

“The big benefit for the person getting the test is they no longer have to have a swab jammed up their nose that far,” said Dr. Adam Barker, director of the ARUP COVID-19 Rapid Response Lab.

He said plenty of people are apprehensive about getting a COVID-19 test because they’ve heard it hurts.

“Now they can go in and they can just simply salivate into a funnel, close the cap off and give it to us, and we’re good,” said Barker.

The saliva test kits can be handed out quickly to patients waiting in cars.

“We think it’s going to make it that much easier for patients to have a test,” said Dr. Richard Orlandi, chief medical officer of ambulatory health for University of Utah Health.

The saliva test is also safer for health care workers, who don’t have to stand around outside in their full PPE.

Right now, they are getting results back to patients in 24 to 36 hours.

“Any barrier that we can remove to getting testing is going to help our community control the coronavirus infection,” said Orlandi.

The saliva test proved to be the equivalent of the nasal swabs, which is considered the gold standard.

They conducted trials by comparing results from saliva tests with those who also tested with the nasal swab, and saliva tests caught five cases the nasal swab did not identify.

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“We actually saw a few patients that we would have missed using the gold standard if we weren’t using saliva,” said Barker.

He said ARUP is currently doing 5,000 coronavirus tests a day. Saliva testing will enable the lab to expand to 15,000 by next week.

“We’re going to triple the capacity of what we can currently test,” said Barker.

The lab is also sending more than 10,000 tests a day to ARUP clients across the country.

‘We’re making those as fast as we can and sending them out as fast as we make them,” said Barker.

All U of U Health testing centers have moved to the saliva testing, although they will keep the nasal swab around for those who cannot produce saliva.

The Park City testing site will change to the saliva test in the next few days.

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