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Simple saliva test detects body’s response to COVID-19

A potential new saliva test can rapidly detect COVID-19 infection and may even indicate if a person is likely to become seriously unwell, research by QIMR Berghofer has shown.
The research confirms the saliva test can detect people with COVID-19 faster than a PCR test.
QIMR Berghofer Associate Professor Michelle Hill said the study offered valuable information on COVID-19 and its progression.
“While further research is needed, the test could potentially indicate if a person is more likely to get quite sick and require hospital care – making it a really valuable screening, triaging and monitoring tool,” said Associate Professor Hill, who directed the study.
The test reads the chemical signature in a person’s saliva, and has already shown promise in similar studies by other researchers.
In a new development, researchers from QIMR Berghofer have established a decontamination procedure that would allow infected samples to be safely handled and tested on the spot.
“This is a simple tool that could be safe for testing at workplaces, schools, airports or large sporting games or concerts,” Associate Professor Hill said.
“It has real potential to meet a global need for basic, rapid COVID-19 screening in diverse settings and venues.”
The study also found the test worked by detecting the body’s response to COVID-19 rather than just the virus itself – making it different from PCR and rapid antigen tests.
“The test’s quick results give it an obvious advantage over PCR tests. It may also be more effective at detecting infection by new strains of the virus than rapid antigen tests,” she said.
The research, which used an Agilent Cary 630 FTIR Spectrometer, was published in the journal Biomedicines. It showed the test had a high sensitivity, with 93.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases correctly identified. The results weren’t affected by a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
The research was jointly funded by QIMR Berghofer, Agilent Technologies and The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, via The Common Good.
It follows similar research, led by QIMR Berghofer and the Indian Institute of Technology, which developed a way of using infra-red technology to rapidly test who is most at risk of becoming severely well from COVID-19.