Are saliva COVID-19 tests the future?
By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_
🧪 BUSINESS OF COVID-19 TESTS
We know the business of COVID-19 testing has been lucrative, and the University of Illinois System’s saliva-based tests are no exception.
The state’s flagship university pulled in $64 million last year for its Shield tests, according to Chicago magazine.
Lauded for its innovative test-and-trace system, the university developed a nonprofit unit and a for-profit company to distribute its Shield tests.
|Shield Illinois (Nonprofit)||Shield T3 (For profit)|
|Universities, nongovernmental orgs = $25/test||Businesses = $30–35/test|
What’s the test? A PCR test where you spit into a vial. Since it skips traditional RNA extraction, test results can be turned around in less than 24 hours. The average is currently 13 hours, Shield Illinois spokesperson Beth Heller told Scientific American.
How is it different? In addition to producing quicker results and being less invasive, researchers have found saliva-based PCR tests are more sensitive than nasal swab counterparts. (With omicron, this could be given how the variant replicates more in the mouth and throat than past variants.)
Could Shield tests be the future? It seems like it.
- State health officials cited the “extensive number of Shield saliva testing sites” as an option Illinoisans could turn to as 10 testing sites close today.
- Shield’s self-collection kits could soon be distributed via vending machines or at workplaces.
- The U of I scientists are also starting to use the technology to create more sophisticated tests to detect other respiratory problems.
Still, U of I System President Tim Killeen said he isn’t opposed to selling the whole operation to a commercial lab company. Like we said, the COVID-19 testing biz is lucrative.
In other COVID news:
💉 Adults 50+ are eligible for another booster.
📈 The new BA.2 omicron subvariant makes up most COVID-19 cases in the Midwest, the CDC said. Cases in Chicago are up 34% from last week.
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