The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for a saliva coronavirus test developed by researchers at Yale University and funded by the NBA, providing a possible game-changer to ease cost and supply issues causing dangerous delays with existing tests.
Researchers say SalivaDirect is faster, cheaper and less-invasive than nasal swab testing, which could alleviate widespread supply chain bottlenecks and delays.
SalivaDirect is the fifth saliva test to be granted an emergency use authorization by the FDA.
A pre-print paper that hasn’t yet been peer reviewed found SalivaDirect produced the similar results to nasal swab tests in a sample group of NBA players, making it the most sensitive saliva test to date, according to Andy Slavit, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration.
Officials hope labs will use SalivaDirect’s “open source” protocol because they don’t have to buy a special kit or equipment to complete the test, while supplies to conduct it only cost $4.
The research was funded by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, though the league is still using nasal swabs on players inside the NBA bubble in Orlando, according to ESPN.
The NBA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes asking if the league plans on switching to SalivaDirect.
“Providing this type of flexibility for processing saliva samples to test for COVID-19 infection is groundbreaking in terms of efficiency and avoiding shortages of crucial test components like reagents,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, in a statement.
90, that’s how many results SalivaDirect can produce in fewer than three hours in a laboratory, according to the Wall Street Journal.
After NBA players drew widespread criticism early in the pandemic for having access to tests while the rest of the country was experiencing a shortage, league officials were seeking ways to make testing accessible to the broader public while finding a solution to best test players in the bubble, ESPN reported. When Yale researcher’s initial research into saliva in early April, the NBA decided to form a partnership to fund it.