In early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the United States and testing capacity was already a problem, Bill Phillips had an idea.
Phillips is the chief operating officer of a medical device company, Spectrum Solutions, that provides saliva test kits for companies like Ancestry.com. He wondered if Spectrum’s kits — which require customers to spit in a tube and ship their samples through the mail — could work with detecting this new virus.
“I just threw it out there: Why don’t we test our device to see if we can use it as a transport medium to get it to the lab?” Phillips recalled in a recent telephone interview.
Spectrum, based outside Salt Lake City, teamed up with a laboratory at Rutgers University, made a few tweaks and found that the effectiveness of their saliva test kit was comparable to the nasopharyngeal test, or the long swab, that was already in widespread use.
By mid-April, the Food and Drug Administration granted the Rutgers lab an emergency-use authorization. A month later, it received approval for the test kit to be used at home.I didn't know this. (I haven't really been paying attention to the various testing methods out there.) I wonder how accurate these tests are? (It's PCR-based, so it taps into the problems the US has had with PCR reagent shortages...)
That saliva kit is now a key part of Major League Baseball’s plan to return to play, and has also been used by other revived sports leagues, including the PGA Tour and Major League Soccer.
I firmly believe we should be testing everyone as much as possible, so this is a good thing.