Scientists at George Mason University are working to develop an easy-to-administer COVID-19 antibody test, which could mean using a simple swab in the mouth for saliva.
Dr. Lance Liotta works for the Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine Center at GMU. He said they’ve been working on saliva testing for many years and already had a collection device that would work.
“We thought let's apply our expertise on that topic to that new challenge,” Liotta said.
To use it, you put the swab inside of the mouth and rub it around the cheeks and the gum. You hold it under the tongue and then when it changes color that’s when you know enough saliva was collected, Liotta said.
Once the diagnostic technology is developed the next stop is another specialized lab for patient testing on volunteers.
They’re also researching with a partner in Italy. The country’s earlier start to the pandemic means some earlier data on whether the saliva antibody testing might work.
“We’ve been sharing the reagents and technologies in Italy and they have sent us data that looks very promising,” said Dr. Alessandra Luchini who also works at George Mason.
The researchers hope they can start using the test this summer. It might be something that could guide decisions about how and when it would be safe to resume classes on campus.
Even though they want to get the test out as quickly as possible, the scientists’ primary concern is being right and grounded in the best science, rather than being first.
A GMU spokesman said the university remains hopeful students can return to campus in the fall for face-to-face instruction. A decision regarding that will be made in the coming weeks.