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Saliva Testing for Covid19: A Game Changer

A Study Report From India

Saliva Testing For Covid19: A Game Changer

Dr. Umma Zainab

 The battles are still ongoing a year after the pandemic struck. 

Faster-spreading versions of the virus are emerging. As the virus keeps us on our toes, we must step up our game as well. Since the pandemic began, all of us, or nearly all of us, have undergone Covid 19 testing. It was either due to patient contact, travel-related reason, or work requirement. Overall, the sensation of something sticking up your nose or tingling at the back of your throat needs no further explanation.

Study report from India

The ICMR's microbiology department studied 74 patients from several covid 19 care hospitals in Bhubaneshwar. Within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, patients had to collect saliva samples in sterile containers. Sample testing was done for finding ORF1 and Envelope genes. On finding both the genes, the sample would be labelled positive.

Further, two genes were sent for PCR and subsequent gene sequencing - RDRP (RNA dependent RNA polymerase) and spike glycoprotein (S) gene. The positive NPS (nasopharyngeal swab) and salivary samples were compared using Ct (cycle threshold) values for providing results.

Salivary samples had good sensitivity and specificity in detecting the target genes through RTqPCR. The results were comparable to NPS samples. As a result, the researchers demonstrated the utility of saliva as a diagnostic tool. 

Spit, Seal, and ………...Ship

To get salivary samples, the patient must spit into sterile containers. Certain things are to be kept in mind before giving the saliva for sample (like to not brush or take any food or beverages). The labs then receive the containers for investigation.

To summarize, the study emphasizes the benefits of saliva over nasopharyngeal swabs:

  •  It is a secure collection method that you can accomplish from the comfort of your own home. As a result, exposure risk is reduced.
  • It has good specificity and sensitivity.
  • Cost-effective and requires less time for results.
  • Non-invasive approach that does not necessitate trained workers.


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Even though additional studies are required, the study highlights the potential of saliva as a viable diagnostic tool. Saliva enables the use of an alternative approach for detecting Covid19.  It would significantly lessen the strain on the healthcare system. Further, assisting in population-wide testing. To keep up the testing of such a diverse population we, must keep improvising!