FDA approves new saliva test as US passes 170,000 coronavirus deaths

Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 3:26 AM EDT
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(CNN) - There may be a breakthrough in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization for a saliva test.

“It doesn’t need the same re-agents and swabs that have been the limiting steps to create testing at scale in this country. It really could be a game changer if we can deploy it,” said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, epidemiologist and public health expert.

Officials say results can be determined in under three hours and tests are expected to cost about $10 per sample.

“I think it will take weeks, if not longer, for this test to become more widely available, but as it comes online, I think people will like it much better than the more intrusive nasal swab test,” said Dr. William Schaffner with the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The National Basketball Association helped to fund the development of this test and uses it to test for non-symptomatic carriers.

The FDA announcement came as the U.S. death toll for known COVID-19 cases passed 170,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“This virus is still spreading widely in the communities. It’s not under control yet over much of the United States, I’m afraid,” said Schaffner.

While known new cases of COVID-19 are trending down, some say more still needs to be done.

“We’ve really under-invested in public health for decades now and continue to do so during this entire period and haven’t done the work necessary to contain the virus,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Céline Gounder.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, testing is down in 17 states, but test positivity rates are up in 34 states. That means an increased percentage of tests come back positive.

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