BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new saliva-based COVID-19 antibody test is highly accurate, according to an initial study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The test detects the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from small samples of saliva.

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Results can be obtained in a matter of hours and could be an alternative to blood-sample antibody tests.

“If our saliva-based assay’s accuracy is borne out in larger studies, this noninvasive approach could make it easier to identify, at a population level, who has already had a SARS-CoV-2 infection and where gaps in seropositivity remain heading into the winter and beyond,” said study senior author Christopher D. Heaney, PhD, MS, an associate professor with appointments in the departments of Environmental Health and Engineering, Epidemiology, and International Health at the Bloomberg School.

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“This could inform targeted vaccination efforts and, after vaccines start to roll out, help figure out how long vaccine-induced antibodies last—all without repeated, invasive blood draws,” Heaney added.

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Here’s how the test works according to Hopkins:

The test is based on multiple fragments, or “antigens,” from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, mostly from its outer spike and nucleocapsid proteins. In the study, the researchers found that their test detected antibodies to several of these antigens in saliva samples from all 24 participants who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 exposure and whose symptoms had begun more than two weeks prior to the test. The test also reliably yielded negative results for saliva samples that had been collected from people prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study appeared online in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Read more about the test here. 

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Kelsey Kushner