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Backing Away From Spit

Two companies that were working on developing rapid, antigen-based saliva tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 have shifted gears to instead focus on tests that utilize shallow nose swabs, the New York Times reports.

There have been hopes that more convenient tests like these could ramp up at-home testing to help curb the spread of COVID-19, as GenomeWeb has reported. In April, 360Dx reported that OraSure Technologies was working on developing an oral fluid-based assay to detect SARS-CoV-2. 

But, the Times reports that testing saliva in this way doesn't seem to work as hoped, adding that OraSure as well as E25Bio have moved away from developing such tests. "If I was placing a bet — which I am, because I'm leading an antigen-based testing company — I would say it's going to be very difficult for antigen-based testing to work on saliva samples," Bobby Brooke Herrera, a founder and chief executive of E25Bio, tells the Times.

Both firms tell the Times they plan to seek authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for at-home antigen tests that rely on shallow nasal swabs. The paper additionally notes that other researchers continue to pursue spit-based tests, but they are largely relying on PCR or LAMP approaches.