Sure to be welcomed as good news for people returning to offices, factories, and schools this fall who will be subject to regular COVID-19 testing: an Israeli hospital is hosting clinical trials for a new “instant” test which utilizes saliva, instead of the more invasive and uncomfortable deep nasal swab.
The new test method is currently undergoing clinical trials involving hundreds of people at the Center for Geographic Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv. It’s purported to show whether someone is positive or negative in less than a second and utilizes artificial intelligence.
Hailed as a much cheaper and more convenient testing method especially useful when large groups of people must be quickly tested, it’s so far said to be able to detect the virus at a 95% success rate.
As described in Reuters, it apparently doesn’t even require a swab or direct contact:
Patients rinse their mouth with a saline wash and spit into a vial. This is then examined by a small spectral device that, in simple terms, shines light on the specimen and analyzes the reaction to see if it is consistent with COVID-19.
With machine learning it gets more accurate over time.
Sheba hospital is partnering with the new technology’s developer, the Israel-based firm Newsight Imaging, to bring it to market. It could indeed be a game-changer, also given the projected price-tag of 25 cents for each single test, and $200 for the scanning machine itself.
Reuters/VOA video purports to show how quick and easy the test is:
Some US colleges last month announced that for students to come back to campus, they have to agree to one or possibly up to two COVID-19 tests per week.
We expect a number of private businesses which can’t opt for a remote work option will follow suit.
As Boston Magazine quipped in a recent article the current deep cavity swab method is extremely uncomfortable to many, especially if required on a weekly bases – for example at Tufts University and others: “Oh, and by the way, twice a week someone has to jam a cotton swab into your brain,” the article commented.
A cheap and easy saliva test available globally would most definitely be welcomed in such routine testing environments, and could actually help combat the disease more effectively, given how fast people with exposure could be isolated.