Health Board, University of Tartu coronavirus to start saliva tests survey ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Coronavirus testing.
Coronavirus testing. Source: ERR

A trial survey by the Estonian Health Board and the University of Tartu to test the presence of coronavirus in saliva samples will kick off next week.

Coronavirus tests using saliva samples is believed to be more convenient and simple than the nasopharyngeal swab test used at present, In future it would be easier to conduct monitoring by means of spit tests and, if possible, replace nasopharyngeal tests at last partially with saliva tests, spokespeople for the University of Tartu said. 

Külli Rae, head of the Health Board's infectious diseases laboratory, said testing with saliva samples is simple and probably more convenient for the person being tested than the present method.  

"The sample can be taken by the person themselves at home, they don't have to go to a test point, which would save a lot of valuable time for medical workers and besides, protective equipment is not necessary. To take a sample, a person must just collect saliva into a tube provided for the collection of the sample," Rae said.

Due to its simplicity, the method is also cheaper than the nasopharyngeal swab test. 

Lili Milani, research professor at the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu, said that although spit testing is already used in several countries, the feasibility and reliability of the method in Estonia has to be assessed. Especially important is to develop a method by which to conduct rapid testing in schools. 

"First, we will conduct a trial survey to test the method in order to compare the precision of the results retrieved from saliva samples with samples taken from the nose. In addition, we will find out in work collectives and schools whether people are able to take the samples themselves," Milani said.

Mikk Jürisson, researcher of public health at the University of Tartu, noted that a situation has arisen where some people avoid coronavirus testing for fear of the inconvenience of the procedure. 

"In addition, we have had problems involving people in monitoring surveys because their experience with the nasopharyngeal test has been unpleasant," Jürisson said.

The trial survey will be conducted over the next week and its outcomes are due at the end of the month. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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