LONDON, U.K. (NBC) – As COVID-19 soars across the world, schools are attempting to find ways through the crisis. In Britain and in the United States, schools are testing staff and students weekly for the coronavirus using pooled saliva testing.
In the United Kingdom and in some parts of the U.S., schools are now turning to a new kind of testing strategy that relies on saliva samples rather than throat and nose swabs. It’s less invasive and it’s more comfortable for young children in particular to participate. And some schools have now started doing this on a weekly basis.
What’s so promising though about this technology is when you pool these samples, you can test up to 200, and 240 in some cases, samples at once.
If there’s one child in that large group that does have the virus, they can be pulled out and then identified specifically.
It allows far larger numbers of people to be tested in a much shorter period of time. And of course, that means this is much, much cheaper as an option.
Prem Premsrirut founded Mirimus Labs, which has developed these tests and offering it to dozens of schools up and down the East Coast right now.
Premsrirut said, “For nasal swabs, you needed a trained person to actually take that sample. It’s quite an invasive procedure. The nasal swabs at that moment in time as well were, you know, supply shortage. And lastly, you know, the trained person has to be fully dressed and pp, which also was in short supply, and put themselves at risk. So these were the things we really tried to get around.”
In the U.K., these tests are being trailed in just a small number of schools at no cost for parents. And, of course, one of the things that head teachers, principals, and teachers say is so important about this, is maintaining confidence among faculty, parents and students to try and keep schools really safe and allow some schools that are currently closed, potentially to reopen.