A new McGill study has found the saliva test is as efficient in detecting COVID-19 as the nasal one
MONTREAL -- A new study has found that saliva testing is as efficient in testing for COVID-19 as the nasal test.
A study led by Drs. Todd Lee and Emily McDonald from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) was published Friday in JAMA Internal Medicine and confirmed the finding.
"Saliva samples for COVID-19 testing," a release from the MUHC reads, "are as good as nasopharyngeal swabs, but cheaper."
The findings could affect government decisions on health policies moving forward, the release continues.
“Previous studies on the performance of saliva tests showed mixed results, but most of them compared saliva tests to the standard nasal swab test, as if it was a perfect test," said one of the study's authors Dr. Guillaume Butler-Laporte. "Interestingly, there are no perfect tests for COVID-19."
The study avoided using a "perfect reference standard," and reviewed 16 studies comparing the two tests (done on 5,922 patients).
"The researchers found that the diagnostic accuracy of saliva nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) was similar to the nasopharyngeal swab NAAT, especially in the ambulatory setting," the release reads.
Butler-Laporte said that previous studies of the saliva test made them look worse than they actually were.
The authors of the study also note that nasal tests cannot be easily performed on all demographics of the population.
Children and people in quarantine are difficult to test, for example.
Therefore, the authors of the study say it is “incredibly important to validate this [saliva] sampling technique for possible deployment in countries or communities with continually high case rates and especially those with developing healthcare systems and less access to specialized care.”