Govt. to expand testing protocols with SalivaDirect pilot program

Govt. to expand testing protocols with SalivaDirect pilot program
(FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — In an effort to expand its testing protocols, the National Reference Laboratory will begin a saliva-based pilot testing exercise this month, according to Minister of Health Renward Wells.

“The SalivaDirect test to undergo an evaluation by being piloted within New Providence and selected Family Islands,”

“The study will be targeting asymptomatic persons.

“In this pilot evaluation exercise, consenting participants will be swabbed as normal, and a saliva sample will be obtained at the same time. This way we can compare the results and measure the accuracy of the saliva-based method against the swab method.

“This pilot is anticipated to proceed during November. The National Reference Laboratory will present its findings and recommendations as it relates to the performance of and potential future use of the SalivaDirect test.

“We hope to be able to utilize the Saliva test to enhance access to testing in the community as well as introduce greater cost efficiencies into the national testing policy in The Bahamas.”

Yale University pioneered the SalivaDirect testing protocol in August.

It involves testing the saliva of asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

According to Dr Indira Martin of the National Reference Laboratory, who will have charge of the program, at least 20 asymptomatic carriers of the virus and 20 negative people will participate in the program.

There have been concerns about the level of testing performed as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

Eyewitness News reported on Monday that while new COVID-19 cases had halved in the last two weeks, testing was down 71 percent.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said while there had been some decrease in testing, this could be attributed to fewer exposures, fewer symptomatic cases presenting for testing and fewer contacts requiring testing.

“Our protocol also speaks to testing of contacts and if you have less cases, then you have less contacts that are likely to become symptomatic,” she said.

Dr Jessica Edwards said while the Princess Margaret Hospital continues to perform tests of persons under investigation (PUIs) and an increased number of non-PUIs, the samples were being referred to the National Reference Lab.

She revealed that there have been challenges procuring the maintenance reagents for one of the hospital’s instruments used to perform testing.

“They are expected to come in,” she said.

“At this time because of that challenge of procuring it, which is an international challenge we are referring those specimens specifically to the National Reference Lab for testing.”

A total of 37,620 tests have been performed since mid-March.

These include tests in the private sector and repeat tests to confirm recovery.

Some 331 tests were carried out on Thursday.

Of these, 34 were positive, 279 were negative and 18 were repeat tests.

Yesterday, 197 tests were completed. Thirty returned positive results.

This represents a positivity rate of 15 percent.