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Swish, gargle testing method used to test for COVID-19 at UArizona

Posted at 10:15 AM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 12:15:51-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - Researchers at the University of Arizona are using a new testing method to test students, staff and faculty for COVID-19.

Michael Worobey is the head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. He told KGUN9 he began using a mouth rinse to test for COVID-19 after seeing it mentioned in an unpublished study months ago.

“A team had tested a bunch of people with the virus and compared the nasal pharyngeal swab with an alternative where you take a little vial of salt water, saline, and you swish that around your mouth and gargle it and spit it in a container and use that to test for the virus," said Worobey.

He said he decided to buy the materials needed to do this method of testing an give it a try.

“In our hands it’s turned out even better. It looks like it's 20% more sensitive than the nasal pharyngeal swab," he said.

Worobey told KGUN9 so far they've used the mouth rinse test to retest university students staying in the isolation dorms, as well as others who've volunteered.

“The patient can collect their own sample so you don’t have to have a healthcare worker up close and personal and exposing themselves to the virus," said Worobey.

The testing method is simple. It requires a small container of salt water, which a patient swishes and gargles in their mouth for three different cycles. After that, the patient spits the solution into a testing tube.

“It seems to detect the virus in patients you would miss with the nasal pharyngeal swab," he said.

Worobey said the plan is to take the testing method into a clinical lab and begin using the method to test more of the university's community.

“The next steps are, we’re probably going to do some sort of pilot testing where we set up some pop-up kiosks and test people who are interested," he said.