Speed Reads

Solving COVID

FDA approves saliva-based coronavirus test viewed as 'major game changer'

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for the SalivaDirect COVID-19 diagnostic test developed by the Yale School of Public Health.

The test, which processes saliva samples to rapidly determine whether a person is infected with the coronavirus and does not require any type of swab or specific collection device, could be one of the first "major game changers in fighting the pandemic," said Andy Slavitt, a former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama administration, in a Twitter thread.

For starters, the process should be a lot more comfortable for people. It doesn't, as Slavitt puts it, require sticking "something four inches up a kid's nostril." But besides being painless, it's affordable — the materials are about $4, Slavitt said, and even when adding the cost of labor and overhead, its development is still cheaper than current tests.

And, because it's cheap and has a fast turnaround time, people will likely be able to get tested more frequently, which will in turn increase diagnostic accuracy.

Slavitt believes all of these assets could especially come in handy for schools, universities, and office buildings which theoretically need to ramp up testing if they want to re-open safely. It could also encourage more asymptomatic people to get tested.

The final reason Slavitt has high praise for the test isn't about the science. Instead, he pointed out that Yale, in partnership with the NBA, developed the test without any intention of making a profit. Tim O'Donnell