ASU team creates new COVID-19 test that involves collection of saliva

People who have received a COVID-19 test, or have seen one, will know what they entail.

During the test, a long swab going into the nose of the person being tested, and collects a sample. It looks scary and can feel odd.

However, Joshua LaBaer and his team at the ASU Biodesign Institute believe the spit test is a better alternative. They developed Arizona’s first saliva test.

"The difference here is that collecting a saliva specimen is much easier," said LaBaer. "All you need is a drinking straw and a tube. You put the straw into your mouth, and gently spit through the straw and tube until you collect a teaspoon of liquid down there, and we’re done."

LaBaer says the test has the same level of accuracy as a nasal swab. He also touted the ease of use. Instead of a massive effort requiring personal protective equipment (PPE), a straw and cup can be utilized almost anywhere

"We believe this can be doable by handing down tubes and straw to individuals. Having them go sit down in a spot, collect their specimen and turn it in," said LaBaer.

Officials with Arizona State University say all of their future tests will be saliva samples. They’re partnering with private groups for now, but will look to expand in the future.

"In my view, it is a way to move forward with reopening the economy," said LaBaer. "People will be more motivated to get tested, less reluctant, and it’s testing we need to identify who is still infectious with the virus."

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there's one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it's not too late to get it. It won't protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Additional resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - How it spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ (In Spanish/En Español)

Arizona COVID-19 Response - Public resources, FAQ, webinars (In Spanish/En Español)

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