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An At-Home Saliva-Based COVID-19 Test? Nevada Researchers Are Working On It

An image of a saliva collection tube
Noah Glick
Researchers in the Mountain West are looking into whether COVID-19 can be detected in saliva, like in this DNA sample collection tube used in the Healthy Nevada Project.

Researchers in the Mountain West are hoping to pioneer a new type of COVID-19 test that requires only a person’s saliva and can easily be done at home.

The Healthy Nevada Project is a community-based population health study, the largest of its kind in the world. Researchers behind the public-private partnership have collected DNA samples from the saliva of 50,000 Nevadans, with the goal of reaching a million samples statewide.

“We never really intended to build the Healthy Nevada Project to deal with [a] pandemic situation, but it provides us the opportunity to use the individuals who have given us the responsibility for doing research on our population to understand better this pandemic,” said Joseph Grzymski, principal investigator for the project.

Grzymski said his team is now looking at whether that same collection method can be used to test for COVID-19.

“We are researching the possibility that there is enough virus in saliva that we can use saliva collection at home to assess those that are symptomatic and asymptomatic in our communities,” he said.

Conducting more tests at home could ease some of the strain on the health care system.

Additionally, the Healthy Nevada Project conducted a survey of 14,000 participants to learn more about recent travel and behaviors, an effort Grzymski hopes will yield data to better track and monitor community spread of the illness.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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