Why Saliva Covid-19 Tests Could Be More Accurate Than Nasal Swabs

By The Vault Team

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we at Vault have leveraged our technology, resources, and at-scale solutions to help keep you safe.

Our Covid-19 Test Kit—the first FDA-EUA authorized saliva test brought to market in partnership with Infinity BiologiX and Spectrum Solutions—has helped numerous individuals, travelers, companies, and organizations get access to fast and reliable testing. 

But as vaccinations increase and signs of a hopeful future begin to surface, the emergence of new variants, like the UK B.1.1.7 variant, continues to underscore the importance of mask-wearing, social distancing, vaccination, and thorough testing.

Thankfully, new research suggests that saliva testing like ours is particularly effective, and possibly even more sensitive and accurate than nasal testing—especially as new, more infectious variants begin to spread throughout the US.

How Covid-19 Enters the Body

Researchers behind a recently published study have found evidence that the coronavirus infects the mouth, including inside the cheeks, gums, and salivary glands, before spreading to other parts of the body, including the throat, lungs, and intestines. 

This evidence suggests that Covid might be “swallowed” before spreading to other parts of the body, which may explain why many people lose their sense of taste and experience dry mouth when infected with the virus.

Ultimately, the study’s findings suggest that the mouth plays a bigger role in SARS-CoV-2 infection than previously thought.

The Importance of Saliva Testing

What’s more, this study may also help explain why saliva testing has been found to be more accurate than nasal swab testing. 

Specifically, the study found that some people who test negative after a nasal swab sometimes test positive on a saliva test, suggesting that even if the virus isn’t present in the nasal glands, it could be present in saliva.

This confirms earlier EUA information findings that saliva testing is more sensitive and accurate than nasal swab testing as published in the New England Journal of Medicine

Detecting Variants With Saliva Testing 

Although recent detection of more infectious variants in the US may be troubling, there is good news: Vault's saliva test is able to detect all of these variants while providing clues as to which variant might be present, helping local public health identify and trace the spread of these variants in their state.

In Minnesota, Department of Health officials reported that the state’s first confirmed cases of a more infectious variant of COVID-19 on Jan. 9, 2021 were found after analyzing samples collected by Vault that returned a specific test result in the lab called an "S-gene drop out." In fact, the lab used by Vault is working with public health officials to identify the prevalence of such variants. 

On a molecular level, Vault’s Covid test reacts to small snippets of three genes in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, of which only two are needed for a diagnosis. This enables our test to diagnose an infection even when a mutation affects the third gene—which is the case with many variants. The gene that goes missing is called a "drop out" or in this case, an “S-gene drop out.” Vault’s test continues to be accurate under these circumstances and the S-gene drop out acts as a red flag, alerting health officials to the possible presence of the more infectious variant. 

Though S-gene drop outs aren’t definitive proof of the variant, identifying them through sequencing has been crucial in local government’s contact tracing efforts in determining how far a variant has spread—an effort that will grow increasingly important over time.

The Good News

It’s been a long year, and the end of the pandemic may be near. But with Covid cases rising again in many states across the country, testing remains paramount while vaccinations continue.

At Vault, we’re proud to be a part of the solution in the fight against Covid-19. To learn more about how Vault’s at-home saliva test kit can help you and your community stay safe, visit this page.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be relied upon for medical diagnosis or treatment.  If you are experiencing an emergency, dial 911 or contact a medical provider immediately.  Consistent with Vault Health, Inc.’s website privacy policy, Vault Health, Inc. is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content found at links to other websites.  The content of this article represents the views and opinions of the individual author.

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