Feb 17, 2021 - Health

A saliva test gets new attention in COVID fight

Picture of a saliva coronavirus test
Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Most of us have gotten used to shoving nasal swabs up our noses to check for the virus that causes COVID-19. But there's also another kind of test that's still being researched: a saliva test that may tell us more.

Driving the news: The Yale School of Medicine is promoting a study by its researchers that suggests the saliva test might not just be less invasive — it might also be a better way to tell who's going to get severely ill.

How it works: By gathering a bit of saliva to see if it contains the virus, doctors can get a pretty good idea of whether a patient has an advanced enough case that they should receive an early treatment like monoclonal antibodies, according to the Yale researchers.

  • If the virus has gotten into the saliva, that's a sign that it's probably gotten into the lungs, which is where it can do the most damage.

The catch: Right now, the saliva test can only be performed in authorized labs. It's not the kind of test the average person can just go out and get.

  • But the Yale researchers say it might become more widely available if more studies confirm its usefulness and the FDA approves it. (It just has an emergency use authorization at the moment.)
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