Saliva for COVID-19 testing: simple but useless or an undervalued resource?

Pijuan-Galito, S., Tarantini, F.S., Tomlin, H., Jenkins, H., Thompson, J.L., Scales, D., Stroud, A., Tellechea Lopez, A., Hassall, J., McTernan, P.G. ORCID: 0000-0001-9023-0261, Coultas, A., Arendt-Tranholm, A., Reffin, C., Hill, I., Lee, I.-N., Wu, S., Porte, J., Chappell, J., Lis-Slimak, K., Kaneko, K., Doolan, L., Ward, M., Stonebridge, M., Ilyas, M., McClure, P., Tighe, P., Gwynne, P., Hyde, R., Ball, J., Seedhouse, C., Benest, A.V., Petrie, M. and Denning, C., 2021. Saliva for COVID-19 testing: simple but useless or an undervalued resource? Frontiers in Virology, 1: 778790. ISSN 2673-818X

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Abstract

During the COVID-19 pandemic, countries with robust population-based asymptomatic testing were generally successful in controlling virus spread, hence reducing hospitalizations and deaths. This effectiveness inspired widespread asymptomatic surveillance for COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 globally. Polarized vaccination programs, coupled with the relatively short-lived immunity vaccines provide, mean that reciprocal cross-border exchanges of each new variant are likely, as evidenced by Delta and Gamma, and asymptomatic testing will be required for the foreseeable future. Reliance on nasopharyngeal swabs contributes to "testing fatigue" arising due to difficulties in standardizing administration, unpleasantness, and inappropriateness of use in younger people or individuals with special needs. There has also been erosion in confidence of testing due to variable and/or poor accuracy of lateral flow devices to detect COVID-19. Here, we question why saliva-based PCR assays are not being used more widely, given that standardization is easy and this non-invasive test is suitable for everyone, providing high sensitivity and accuracy. We reflect on our experience with the University of Nottingham COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing, where (as of October 2021) 96,317 samples have been processed by RT-qPCR from 23,740 repeat saliva donors, yielding 465 positive cases. We challenge myths that saliva is difficult to process, concluding that it is an undervalued resource for both asymptomatic and symptomatic detection of SARS-CoV-2 genomes to an accuracy of >99% and a sensitivity of 1-10 viral copies/µl. In July 2021, our data enabled Nottingham to become the first UK University to gain accreditation and the first UK institute to gain this accolade for saliva.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Frontiers in Virology
Creators: Pijuan-Galito, S., Tarantini, F.S., Tomlin, H., Jenkins, H., Thompson, J.L., Scales, D., Stroud, A., Tellechea Lopez, A., Hassall, J., McTernan, P.G., Coultas, A., Arendt-Tranholm, A., Reffin, C., Hill, I., Lee, I.-N., Wu, S., Porte, J., Chappell, J., Lis-Slimak, K., Kaneko, K., Doolan, L., Ward, M., Stonebridge, M., Ilyas, M., McClure, P., Tighe, P., Gwynne, P., Hyde, R., Ball, J., Seedhouse, C., Benest, A.V., Petrie, M. and Denning, C.
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Date: 15 December 2021
Volume: 1
ISSN: 2673-818X
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.3389/fviro.2021.778790DOI
1504585Other
Rights: © 2021 Pijuan-Galito, Tarantini, Tomlin, Jenkins, Thompson, Scales, Stroud, Tellechea Lopez, Hassall, McTernan, Coultas, Arendt-Tranholm, Reffin, Hill, Lee, Wu, Porte, Chappell, Lis-Slimak, Kaneko, Doolan, Ward, Stonebridge, Ilyas, McClure, Tighe, Gwynne, Hyde, Ball, Seedhouse, Benest, Petrie and Denning. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 04 Jan 2022 14:55
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2022 14:55
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/45152

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