Saliva test to detect COVID-19 being developed in Saskatchewan

·2 min read

A saliva test to see if you have COVID-19 is being developed here in Saskatchewan.

The province's two universities received $1.5 million in federal funding to create a test that detects SARS-CoV-2 peptides, or proteins, in a person's saliva along with a prototype testing device.

The research is part of a broader University of Regina led project.

Dr. Walter Siqueira of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Dentistry is leading the development of the new diagnostic test.

Siqueira's team is collaborating with with team from Ontario's Western University to develop the prototype testing device.

He said to perform the test all you will need is some droplets of saliva to put in the new testing device that is the size of a cellphone.

The device has an indicator that turns a certain colour when the virus biomarker combines with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, indicating the presence of the virus in the saliva.

"It is very similar to a pregnancy test that you can buy in a drugstore," Siqueira said.

The best part is that the test is that it is less invasive, low-cost, simple to use, and can be done at home or in remote locations.

"One of the advantages of working with saliva is that you don't need a specialized person to collect the saliva. It's basically just spit in a tube and you have the saliva," Siqueira said.

Siqueira leads the U of S Salivary Proteomics Research Laboratory which focuses on salivary research.

He has already had success in identifying a specific protein signature in saliva for the Zika virus and created a detection method for Zika virus using saliva.

Siqueira's team has partnered with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Royal University Hospital to acquire saliva samples for the research.

"We started to collect some data here from Saskatchewan, some positive cases and some negative cases, and the data is very promising," he said. "In all the positive samples we identified the proteins and peptides of the virus in saliva."

Siqueira anticipates the new test could be available to the general population by March of next year.

Dentists' saliva tests to be gathered for one year

Siqueira is also working with researchers from McGill University to collect saliva samples from dentists across the country to determine the incidence rate of COVID-19 among dentists.

He said dentists are in close contact with patients and use aerosol-generating procedures which makes for a high-risk environment for the transmission of COVID-19.

Saliva samples will be collected from 220 dentists every four weeks for a period of one year to test for COVID-19.

The data collected will help in showing what personal protective equipment should be used and what infection control measures should be in place.