Doctors see higher demand for saliva-based COVID-19 testing amid Omicron surge

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Saliva-based COVID-19 tests are becoming more popular as the Omicron variant spreads in the state and nation.

“You don’t have to have a healthcare worker exposed to the virus obtaining a sample. Most often times with a saliva test you spit, so to speak, in the cup. And send it to the lab,” said Dr. Ronald Andrews, Baton Rouge Pediatric and Internal Medicine Associates.

LSU researchers found the test to be just as accurate as the PCR test in August.

You might be wondering why we don’t switch from the uncomfortable nasal swab to saliva, well, that comes with a price and the tests are more complicated than you would think.

“The saliva PCR test, they are a little more costly, they don’t have as much shelf life as nasal PCR. And they have to be run essentially right away. A nasal PCR test kit can last a year on the shelf and you actually have a week to run it,” said Andrews.

At Walgreens on Siegen nasal kits have been swiped off the shelf all week. Dr. Andrews found a test online from myLAB Box — but it cost triple what you would pay for a nasal swab.

“Even at a wholesale price of five dollars. More goes into it. That five dollars just for the collection kit. But then yes it has to be mailed back to the lab if its a home test, overnight mail. That adds surely another 30 dollars minimum,” he said.

Dr. Andrews carries both forms of the test. With his limited supply, he prefers to use them for children since it’s less invasive.

“I may order about 25 percent of a saliva test. Probably a 75 to 25 percent ratio because I don’t want to have them and them go to waste,” he said.

According to Governor John Bel Edwards, the state is expecting shipments of rapid tests from the federal government in the coming weeks.

Information on COVID-19 testing is available here.

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