A New Saliva-Based COVID-19 Test is in the Works at URI

Clinical trials are underway for the less invasive test, which could deliver painless results at a lower cost.
Prof Slitt Photo Creds Patrick Luce

URI Professor of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Angela Slitt. Photo by Patrick Luce.

In the labs of the University of Rhode Island (URI), researchers are testing the efficacy of a new saliva-based COVID-19 test to be used on the university’s campuses as a monitoring tool for the coronavirus. URI Professor of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences Angela Slitt is spearheading the team, and they’ve been working on the new test since last spring. A clinical trial is in progress.

“One of the things we set out to do was to develop a less invasive, more cost-effective, more accessible test,” says Slitt in a press release about the new COVID-19 test, compared to the uncomfortable nasal swab tests. “We use saliva, work off different supply chains, use different, less cost-prohibitive instrumentation and are effectively lowering the barriers to entry for many.”

The team also worked with the Rhode Island Department of Health and Thermo Fisher Scientific of Waltham, Mass.

As they’re in the home stretch of data collection to apply for FDA Emergency Use Authorization, Slitt and the team are hopeful their COVID-19 test will be one of the few assay tests that could be made available worldwide. The test has a high level of sensitivity, akin to other successful saliva tests on the market. It can detect the level of viral load in the sample, making it helpful in gauging infectivity and likelihood of spread.

“With minimal scientific equipment, we can not only increase our capacity in the United States but also help to put tools into the hands of people in developing countries that they can use,” says Slitt in the press release.



A Rhode Island ICU Nurse’s Take on the Winter Wave of COVID-19

Everything You Need to Know About the Coronavirus in Rhode Island

Stick Tight: One Family’s Early Pandemic Days