A different COVID-19 testing method developed by a Rutgers University research team that relies on spitting instead of swabbing will help save personal protective equipment for other medical staff in the fight against novel coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to the saliva collection testing, according to Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics Chief Operating Officer Andrew Brooks.

The newer method allows for testing to be done on a sample collected from a patient spitting into a vial, instead of requiring a health care professional to swab the inside of either a patient's nose or throat.

The difference means fewer health care professionals in close proximity of patients, and conserves the use of not only those swabs but also PPE for those treating COVID-19 patients, Brooks said.

The COVID-19 saliva collection method was developed by RUCDR in partnership with Spectrum Solutions and Accurate Diagnostic Labs, which Brooks said will allow for broader screening than the current method of nose and throat swabs

Brooks, who also is a professor of genetics at Rutgers University, said the method already is used for other viral detection, but this is a first for novel coronavirus.

He said since the FDA's emergency use approval, "we have gotten phone calls from a hundred labs, a hundred different life science companies, that all want to incorporate this in some form," in order to expand the potential of testing.

About an hour after getting word about the FDA response, the White House COVID-19 response task force also called his team, Brooks said, to ask about production capacities, while also asking what hurdles could be removed and the potential for avoiding bottlenecks in order to improve testing globally.

He said the design was for this to expand "well beyond our lab and well beyond the tri-state area."

"We are confident that a lot of people are working towards improving the access to testing the ease of testing, the accuracy of testing and the safety of testing," Brooks said.

In New Jersey, the COVID-19 saliva tests are available to the RWJBarnabas Health network, including Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, University Hospital in Newark and other facilities, including several county health departments.

As of April 15, the test will be available to Middlesex County residents who have appointments at the drive-thru testing facility in Edison at 33 Kilmer Road. The saliva test will be available there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, county officials announced.

RUCDR Infinite Biologics is part of Rutgers’ Human Genetics Institute of New Jersey.

Rutgers saliva test COVID19 Brooks
Rutgers Professor Andrew Brooks, COO/director of technology development at RUCDR Infinite Biologics. (courtesy Rutgers University)

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