A study conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has shown that a PCR test using saliva to check for Covid-19 is almost as accurate as the standard nose and throat swab.

The authors say saliva screening is a less invasive alternative to the nasal/throat swab and could enable greater capacity for and uptake of frequent testing of people who require regular screening.

The research, carried out by the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and published in HRB Open Research, has been approved by an international panel of peer-reviewers this week.

It involved the collection of nasal/throat swabs and saliva samples from a group of over 300 people with symptoms and without symptoms, between November 2020 and March 2021.

The results revealed that 94% of the positive nose/throat samples also tested positive on the saliva test, while 96% of those that tested negative on the nose/throat swab also tested negative on the saliva test.

Professor Steve Kerrigan, the joint lead author of the study, said the saliva sample to test for Covid-19 can be easily collected by the person themselves, so has the potential to increase compliance with screening.

He also said that as the saliva test does not require a healthcare professional to conduct it, this method also reduces the risk of infection for test centre staff associated with conducting the nasal/throat swabbing.

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The study in full