Public Health

23.06.20

New coronavirus saliva test piloted in Southampton

A new ‘no-swab’ saliva test, as part of a weekly coronavirus testing model, is set to be trialled in Southampton from this week, with over 14,000 GP staff, other essential key workers and university staff and their households participating in the first phase of the trial.

Participants will be able to complete coronavirus tests at home by putting their saliva into a sample pot to be tested for current infections of the virus.

Test kits will be delivered to either the home or place of work of the first participants for them to complete each week. Samples will then be safely collected by University of Southampton staff or returned to an agreed location on a weekly basis and participants will receive test results within 48 hours.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Saliva testing could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs. This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier.

“I am very grateful to everyone involved in the trial who is helping us develop our understanding of the virus which will benefit not only our but the global response to it.”

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The new saliva test will allow for further significantly increased testing capacity and accessibility as it does not require the use of a swab, which some people find uncomfortable
 

The new saliva test will allow for further significantly increased testing capacity and accessibility as it does not require the use of a swab, which some people find uncomfortable. The test has already displayed highly promising signs, with the pilot undertaking further validation against polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swabs.

By testing weekly, it will allow coronavirus cases to be identified early, including those who are either asymptomatic or displaying only minor symptoms, allowing those who test positive to isolate within their households and reduce the virus’ spread. Details of those who test positive will be shared with the NHS Test and Trace programme so contact tracing can start immediately.

The trial comes on top of the routine testing of asymptomatic staff in health and care settings already taking place using existing testing capacity.

The pilot will be jointly led by Southampton City Council, the University of Southampton and the NHS, alongside a wider network of public services in Hampshire.

Southampton City Council Director of Public Health, Debbie Chase, said: “We will initially invite Southampton’s 800-strong GP practice workforce and their households to take part, followed by some other essential key workers and some University of Southampton staff and students as we evaluate the logistics needed for regular testing of large population groups.”

Professor Keith Godfrey, from the University of Southampton, added: “The health, social and economic impacts of lockdown cannot be underestimated. Through this initiative we believe we can contribute to safely restoring economic activity within the city and region during national relaxation measures, whilst enabling people to regain their lives, work and education.”

The pilot will run for up to 4 weeks testing people on a weekly basis. Participants for the pilot are currently being registered with self-testing due to start next week.

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