COVID-19: saliva as a diagnostic sample

Children are the main focus of this study carried out by IGC, Dona Estefânia Hospital and Amadora Sintra Hospital.
© Joana Carvalho, IGC 2020

The use of saliva as the preferred sample in the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2, in all group ages, determines the development of a study at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, in collaboration with Hospital Dona Estefânia and Hospital Amadora Sintra. As the first data revealed to be very promising, the study aims to optimize processes to facilitate diagnosis. It will be a less invasive solution, especially for children, but it will also contribute to increase testing capacity and reduce the costs associated with carrying out the analysis.

Researchers from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC), in partnership with Hospital Dona Estefânia and Hospital Prof. Doutor Fernando da Fonseca, EPE (Amadora Sintra) are studying the feasibility of using saliva as an effective sampling for detecting Covid-19 infection in adults and children. So far, the method has been validated in 80 hospitalized people, where, among others, the effectiveness of saliva compared to the nasopharyngeal sample was evaluated, with very promising results being obtained. This study is expected to test a total of 300 people, 33% of whom are infected, from all age groups. According to Mónica Bettencourt Dias, Director of the IGC “science has a crucial role in the identification of new solutions to face the pandemic that we are experiencing. The current testing method is extremely invasive, especially for children, it involves large and expensive logistics and, therefore, it is strategic to find options with clear advantages for the population, patients and the national health system. ”

Maria João Amorim, the IGC principal investigator leading the study, explains that “many articles have referred to saliva as an effective sampling alternative and, at the moment, pilot studies are underway in the United Kingdom, United States and Japan. We are using samples of positive cases of Covid-19 disease and confirming that saliva can be used effectively in the screening of SARS-CoV-2 in all age groups, which can increase testing and enable a self-assessment situation at home, which would be an ideal scenario to decrease the circulation of the virus. “