Cotton swap for COVID test

Saliva PCR test is almost as accurate as nasal/throat swab in detecting COVID-19

  • Research

Research carried out in Ireland by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has revealed that a saliva PCR test is almost as accurate as the 'gold standard' nasal/throat swab in detecting COVID-19

The RCSI study, published in HRB Open Research is approved by an international panel of peer-reviewers. The study was conducted to evaluate the performance of the established 'gold standard' nasal/throat swabbing against the SalivaDirect method. The SalivaDirect method was developed by the Yale School of Public Health and has since been authorised for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In the Irish study, nasal/throat swabs and saliva samples were collected from a cohort of over 300 symptomatic and asymptomatic participants between November 2020 and March 2021. Participants included patients admitted to Beaumont Hospital with COVID-19 related respiratory symptoms and asymptomatic RCSI students who took part in the study as part of the routine COVID-19 screening programme at the University.

The results revealed that 94% of the positive nose/throat samples tested also tested positive on the saliva test. 96% of those that tested negative on the nose/throat swab also tested negative on the saliva test.

The results are consistent with the results of the SalivaDirect method and indicate that the use of saliva to detect the COVID-19 virus represents a valid, accurate and less invasive alternative to nasal/throat sampling. The use of the saliva PCR test could enable greater capacity for, and uptake of, frequent testing of people who require regular screening.

RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences conducted the study in collaboration with University College Dublin and Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. The study was funded by RCSI.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.