University of Georgia to change COVID-19 surveillance testing method

September 23, 2020 Athens - Students wear face masks as they make their way through the campus in the University of Georgia campus in Athens on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
September 23, 2020 Athens - Students wear face masks as they make their way through the campus in the University of Georgia campus in Athens on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

University of Georgia officials said Monday they will increasingly rely on saliva-based testing for its voluntary COVID-19 surveillance program for students and employees.

The university’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has developed a saliva-based test that officials say has proved to be just as reliable as the nasopharyngeal swabs that have been used at the Legion Field surveillance site. Accurate results will be provided within 24-72 hours, they said.

“The switch to saliva-based testing will be a major improvement on many levels. Saliva is certainly more comfortable, and the sample kit is user-friendly and more of a closed process. The kits developed for the lab require only 1 ml (whereas the Vault testing we’ve used at previous pop-ups requires 5 ml),” said Dr. Garth Russo, executive director of the University Health Center.

UGA will use its remaining supply of its nasopharyngeal test kits before switching to the saliva-based kits.

August 20, 2020 Athens - Students and faculty members wait in line at COVID Surveillance Asymptomatic Testing center at Legion Field as the University of Georgia started classes for the fall semester on Thursday, August 20, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
August 20, 2020 Athens - Students and faculty members wait in line at COVID Surveillance Asymptomatic Testing center at Legion Field as the University of Georgia started classes for the fall semester on Thursday, August 20, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech used a saliva-based test that it developed last semester.

UGA also plans to increase its testing capacity at the Legion Field site and pop-up locations across campus will be expanded to accommodate up to 1,500 tests per day.

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