ARIZONA NEWS

UArizona examining new saltwater mouthwash COVID-19 test

Oct 29, 2020, 12:00 PM | Updated: 12:27 pm
Health care professionals prepare to screen people for the coronavirus (COVID-19) at a testing site...
Health care professionals prepare to screen people for the coronavirus (COVID-19) at a testing site erected in a parking lot on April 02, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The University of Arizona is examining a new method of COVID-19 testing that uses saltwater mouthwash instead of nasal swabs.

The test was devised by Michael Worobey, who serves as the head of the university’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Worobey said the mouthwash test differs from other saliva-based versions such as the antigen and polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) tests in that it relies on a saltwater rinse and gargle.

Worobey said he’s been collecting COVID-19 samples from patients in Tucson since March.

He wanted to find a way to test patients that didn’t include the nasopharyngeal swab method, in which a swab is inserted deep into the sinus cavity to collect respiratory mucosa cells.

Worobey told KTAR News 92.3 FM that he read on the pre-print server medRxiv about a group in British Columbia that was trying the mouthwash testing idea and figured he’d do the same in Tucson.

“They seemed to have pretty good success with it, where it was almost as sensitive as the nasopharyngeal swabs,” Worobey said. “And actually, it looked like it was quite a bit more sensitive than saliva tests, which have been developed.”

Worobey said he immediately got to work collecting samples from Tucsonans to compare how effective the mouthwash option was versus swabs and saliva tests.

His preliminary results found that the mouthwash tests were even more sensitive than other options, which he attributes to the fact that gargling reaches the cells that COVID-19 targets directly.

“It’s not totally clear but my guess is that compared to something like saliva is it’s a sort of value-added system where you probably get the same amount of saliva that a person would produce for just a direct saliva test,” he said.

“This approach gets saliva when you rinse the saline solution in your mouth. But when you gargle it also gets into the back part of your throat, called the pharynx. And so that’s where the nasopharyngeal swab is trying to get to, the nasal pharynx. And that’s where you have a lot of cells that can be infected by this virus.”

Worobey said the mouthwash test is only being used in his lab as part of a research study.

His department is providing samples to the lab on campus that handles clinical testing. Right now, the university’s lab is using traditional PCR tests on students, staff and faculty, according to Worobey.

Worobey said the department’s preliminary test results have been positive, with the next step being the implementation of the mouthwash testing method campus-wide.

“It’s just a question of how widely do we want to deploy this on campus,” Worobey said. “So I think that we’re in good shape in terms of the research sides of things has shown how well it works.

“We’re well into the validation on the clinical side and that will open the door to having this as a sort of official part of the armamentarium that we use.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Parc Broadway Photos)...
KTAR.com

Amenity-filled Parc Broadway apartment community opens in Tempe

Parc Broadway, a new amenity-filled gated apartment community in Tempe, started welcoming residents this month.
9 hours ago
(Photos via Getty Museum)...
Kevin Stone

Treasured de Kooning painting ready for display for first time since 1985 theft in Arizona

A Los Angeles museum will soon display a Willem de Kooning painting for the first time since it was stolen in Tucson nearly 40 years ago.
9 hours ago
Rocket Burger & Subs I 12038 N. 35th Ave. (Yelp photo)...
KTAR.com

Celebrate National Hamburger Day with these metro Phoenix restaurants

Saturday is National Hamburger Day, the perfect time to celebrate America's most popular sandwich by grabbing one.
9 hours ago
(Arizona DPS Photo)...
KTAR.com

2 suspects arrested after nearly 150 pounds of cocaine found during Arizona traffic stop

Two suspects were arrested after nearly 150 pounds of cocaine were recovered during a traffic stop in Arizona.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Aaron Lieberman)...
KTAR.com

Aaron Lieberman suspends campaign for governor of Arizona

Aaron Lieberman announced on Friday that he is suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of Arizona.
1 day ago
(File Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)...
KTAR.com

43 alleged sexual predators arrested across Valley as part of undercover operation

Federal and local authorities teamed up to 43 arrests as part of an undercover operation targeting alleged sexual predators in metro Phoenix.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
...
Christina O’Haver

Stroke month: Experts call attention to stroke prevention

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
...
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
UArizona examining new saltwater mouthwash COVID-19 test