How Effective are Saliva Tests for Covid-19 Detection?

Covid-19 Detection

With new covid variants being introduced every few months, it is important to make the process of testing more robust and convenient. The demand keeps rising as time passes, resulting in a shortage of testing kits, swabs, and personal protective equipment(PPEs).

Therefore, governments and public agencies are working hard to find alternative methods of testing. It is also essential that the testing samples do not get contaminated. Therefore, the use of 20ul filter tips is recommended. Antigen tests for Covid-19 detection are quite effective, but each comes with its own drawbacks.

An antigen present in the blood sample is unlikely to help detect infections, and that is why the rapid testing methods do not provide accurate results. On the other hand, swab testing is more sensitive due to the use of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction(RT-PCR).

Saliva is less prone to disruption in supply chains, which means that it is a great swab alternative that can be collected by the person getting tested themselves. However, the question arises, are saliva tests equally effective in detecting the infection as the nasal swabs testing?

Things To Consider When Performing A Swab Based Covid-19 Test:

Testing done through swabs has been the method of choice for virus detection. It was validated by CDC in the earlier days and has been considered as the first effective method of virus detection.

However, the process of sample collection through a nasal swab is quite uncomfortable for patients. The insertion of the device is always followed by a feeling of discomfort. It can even lead to excessive coughing and sneezing and a bloody nose. These are a few things that can be considered as drawbacks of the swab testing method.

Not only is this invasive method uncomfortable for adults, but is traumatizing for children as well. Parents should read the many counseling articles present on the web before taking their children for a testing session. These are filled with ideas about how to reassure and provide emotional support to the kids during the insertion of a nasal swab. (Are Saliva Tests as Effective as Nasal Swabs at Detecting COVID-19?, 2022)

In some cases the patients have been allowed to self-collect nasal swabs, however, the method is a bit risky as it is being done by an unprofessional individual. Patients might over-push the swab and injure themselves or take an inadequate sample.

Some documented complications include nose bleeding, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, foreign body retention, and various infections. In case of unclear instructions, the self-collecting patient might place the stick into the transport medium before putting it into their nose. This reagent is harmful and can cause major complications. Oral swabs and shallow nasal swabs are associated with lesser risks in cases of self-administration.

Things To Consider When Performing Saliva Based Testing:

The major difference between a swab test and a saliva test is the method used for the collection of the sample. The saliva is collected from the drooling method, making it a lot less invasive and comfortable for the patient. Additionally, there is no involvement of complications such as nose bleeds or CSF leaks.

In this method, the compliance level is higher as the process is a lot more feasible. It is a non-invasive method that can be self-performed by the patient without medical supervision. A saliva collection device requires the patient to drool or salivate into the tube of the collecting device.

This method is especially preferred for school testing programs, as it is safer and does not involve any painful sensation. It allows easy targeting of the critical population i.e. the kids. The test has also received the FDA Emergency Use Authorization(EUA) and the approval of the CDC.

Various analytical research and data collection have determined the accuracy and efficiency of the saliva-based testing method. These studies noticed that the two methods are quite similar in terms of virus detection, suggesting the saliva tests can be considered as the preferred method due to the ease of use and patient comfort.

The Takeaway?

We can now say that it is a lot safer and more convenient to opt for a saliva-based testing method. Although they are considered slightly less sensitive than nasal swab testing, they also deliver absolute patient comfort. If your laboratory is in search of a facility from where they can stock their covid testing equipment, know that Molecular Biology Products are efficiently stocked. Get in touch with us to buy covid testing kits, 1000ul conductive filter tips, and deep well storage and assay plates to ensure safe and non-contaminated covid testing.


Are Saliva Tests as Effective as Nasal Swabs at Detecting COVID-19? (2022, February 3). Zymo Research. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from

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