June 1, 2020

Utahns tested for COVID-19 at the University of Utah Redwood Health Center are being asked to volunteer for a study to evaluate whether saliva and other specimen types can be effectively used to test for the disease. The study is a collaboration between ARUP Laboratories and U of U Health.

If ARUP succeeds in validating COVID-19 tests on the different specimen types, U of U Health and other providers will have some less invasive options for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Current testing for the virus requires a healthcare worker to insert a long, flexible swab into the nostril to collect secretions from the back of the nose and throat. This is called a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, and it typically causes patients to cough or sneeze.

“We are studying whether swabs obtained from the front part of the nose and/or saliva are effective alternatives to a deep nasal swab. These alternative sample types are easier to obtain and may be more comfortable for patients,” said Kim Hanson, MD, MHS, ARUP section chief of clinical microbiology and an infectious diseases physician at the U of U. “In addition, healthcare providers would also be more protected because patients could collect the specimens themselves.”

Volunteers for the study will have an NP specimen collected by U of U Health medical assistants as a part of standard care. Volunteers will also provide two other specimens they collect themselves – saliva they spit into a collection tube and secretions swabbed from the front of both nostrils.

Hanson said she and her fellow researchers hope to enroll about 1,000 participants in the study, with the expectation that they will see about 100 test results that are positive for COVID-19 among those participants.

They will compare positive results across all three specimens to validate the accuracy of the tests on the alternative specimen types. Hanson anticipates it will be about a month before researchers know whether the new tests are valid and ARUP can begin accepting the alternative specimens for testing.

“Working together with ARUP, U of U Health continues to make patient testing for COVID-19 a priority for the state of Utah and our healthcare system,” said Richard Orlandi, MD, chief medical officer at the U of U. “We support research for COVID-19 that could benefit U of U Health patients and their future healthcare.”

The tests are the latest in a suite of assays ARUP has validated to diagnose, monitor, and treat COVID-19. A nonprofit enterprise of the U of U, ARUP provides COVID-19 testing for U of U Health and many other clients in Utah and nationwide.

For more information about COVID-19 testing, visit ARUP’s COVID-19 page or the ARUP Consult Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) topic