A weekly coronavirus testing model using a new ‘no-swab’ saliva test is being piloted in Southampton from this week.
Over 14,000 GP staff, other essential key workers and university staff and their households will participate in the first phase of the trial. Participants will be able to complete coronavirus tests at home by putting their saliva into a sample pot to be tested for a current infection of the virus.
The pilot will run for up to 4 weeks testing people on a weekly basis. Participants for the pilot are currently being registered with self-testing due to start next week. Between 33,000 to 40,000 tests will be carried out during the trial. When participants are enrolled in the trial they will be informed that their details will be shared with the NHS Test and Trace programme so contact tracing can start immediately if there is a positive test.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Saliva testing could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs. This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier.
“The new saliva test will be significant to increasing testing capacity and accessibility as it does not require the use of a swab, which some people find uncomfortable. The test has already been shown to be highly promising and the pilot is undertaking further validation against polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swabs.”
In addition to the new test from Optigene being piloted in Southampton, the government is currently exploring the potential of other no-swab saliva-based coronavirus tests with companies including Chronomics, Avacta, MAP Science and Oxford Nanoimaging (ONI).
It is also working with a number of suppliers, including DNA Genotek, International Scientific Supplies Ltd, Isohelix and other manufacturers to develop bespoke saliva collection kits and scale up manufacturing for products that can be used with existing PCR tests.