Augusta University Health will begin offering saliva testing as a simpler and noninvasive test for COVID-19. Pediatric testing will start Tuesday, Sept. 22, and adult testing will begin Monday, Sept. 28. AU Health is one of the few institutions in the nation performing saliva sampling for the novel coronavirus.
The new test was developed by a team of researchers at the Medical College of Georgia led by Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, director of the Georgia Esoteric and Molecular (GEM) Laboratory and vice chair for translational research in the Medical College of Georgia Department of Pathology.
Throughout the summer, Kolhe and his team in the GEM Lab conducted months of side-by-side testing of different sample collection methods as part of their saliva test development. He and others across the country exploring this more benign approach to sample collection of spitting into a sterile container are finding that the results are essentially equal to the more invasive nasal swab sample.
As an added benefit, researchers noted the simple design of the test of a patient spitting into a sterilized container and handing the sample over to a medical professional is not only more convenient for the patient, but it lowers the health care worker’s exposure to the virus when distributing the test.
“Saliva testing is a game changer in the fight against COVID-19, and this easier approach to testing is more comfortable for the patient and will help to make sure they are screened and evaluated in a way that avoids possible transmission to others,” said Kolhe. “Providing saliva sampling is a step in the right direction, and I am proud of how hard AU Health has worked throughout this crisis to provide patients with innovative testing to slow the spread of this virus. “
AU Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule shared Kolhe’s sentiments by adding how AU Health’s ability to offer the saliva test speaks to the institution’s level of expertise in developing innovative responses to challenges posed by the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving daily and AU Health is grateful to be one of the few locations in America to offer saliva testing as an option to the community during these uncertain times,” said Coule. “From the onset of this pandemic, we made it our priority to provide greater access for those who may need testing, and I am grateful saliva testing is now among the variety of diagnostic tests we offer for the coronavirus.”
AU Health continues to be a statewide leader in the fight against COVID-19 by providing various tests for the virus, including nasal swab sampling, pediatric COVID-19 tests and now saliva testing. To date, AU Health has surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 tests.
Saliva testing for pediatric patients will be held at the Augusta University Faculty Office Building and the Augusta University Care Center Grovetown Pediatrics.
The Augusta University Faculty Office Building is located at 1467 Harper St., and appointments will be available from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday. The Augusta University Care Center Grovetown Pediatrics is located at 305 West Robinson Avenue, and appointments will be available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Adult saliva sampling be done at AU Health’s COVID-19 drive-thru specimen collection location on the Augusta University Health Sciences Campus at Annex II at 524 15th St., and appointments will be available from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.
Patients should not eat or drink for one hour before being tested. Additionally, AU Health’s medical professionals will help coordinate the most appropriate COVID-19 test for patients, whether that be nasal swab sampling or saliva testing.
Before arriving at the testing locations, patients will need to make an appointment by calling the health system’s hotline at 706-721-1852 and choose option two for pediatric testing. Results are usually provided within 24 hours.
For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit the university’s designated COVID-19 resource page.