MOH conducting field tests to check feasibility of widespread saliva testing for COVID-19

MOH conducting field tests to check feasibility of widespread saliva testing for COVID-19

A health worker takes a nasal swab test sample from an essential worker
A health worker takes a COVID-19 nasal swab test sample from an essential worker in Singapore, Jun 10, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) is conducting field tests to assess if saliva testing can be scaled for more widespread use in Singapore, it said on Friday (Sep 18).

Responding to queries from CNA, the ministry said factors such as consistency and integrity of sample collection, efficiency of laboratory processes and the ability to cater for high volumes of tests via pooled testing.

Currently, most of the samples for COVID-19 tests in Singapore are collected through nasopharyngeal (nose) or oropharyngeal (throat) swabs. 

With pool testing, swabs are tested in batches and individual testing will be conducted if the group yields a positive result. This gives a high throughput and allows the ministry to efficiently process high volumes of tests daily, said an MOH spokesperson.

READ: Singapore reports 11 new COVID-19 cases, lowest daily figure since Mar 12

MOH said it regularly assesses the suitability of new testing technologies and sample collection methods to expand its testing capacity.

“As new testing modalities emerge, we are also actively exploring alternative collection methods which could improve sample collection efficiency and comfort for individuals, while still delivering an appropriate level of sensitivity in detecting cases,” it said.

Preliminary findings indicated that saliva testing may be slightly more comfortable for some individuals, it added.

“However, mechanisms to scale up saliva testing in the laboratories, including pooled testing, are still being developed.”

READ: COVID-19: Rigorous testing could help revive travel but challenges remain, say experts

The ministry previously said it regularly reviews its testing strategies.

Last month, it announced plans to offer COVID-19 tests to community groups such as taxi drivers, food delivery workers, as well as stallholders at hawker centres, markets and coffee shops as part of their efforts to expand their testing regime.

The costs for the one-time test will be borne by the Government.

It currently conducts surveillance testing on patients over the age of 12 who display acute respiratory infection. It also tested groups such as pre-school teachers, as well as residents and employees of elderly homes.

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Source: CNA/ga(hs)

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