Friday, August 14, 2020

Spit test: U of I begins COVID-19 saliva testing

University of Illinois Springfield saliva testing for the new coronavirus is up and running as of Aug. 11. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed the so-called SHIELD test. The tests are being used at all three U of I campuses. The university system said it wants to supply the tests throughout the state and nation.

Starting Aug. 17, anyone spending time on the UIS campus as a student, faculty or staff member must be tested once per week. "We're going to do surveillance testing, not symptomatic testing," said Karen Whitney, interim UIS chancellor, during a webinar last month. The conversation was about education and COVID-19. Whitney told attendees of the coming school year, "It's gonna be a roller coaster."

On Aug. 10, the University of Illinois System announced a new "university-related organization" that will make the technology available nationally. The test has rapid results and costs less than nasal swabs, according to a news release. Results are ready within six hours. According to the release, "The quick turnaround time for test results is a key in curbing the virus, allowing isolation early enough to limit spread of the infection as well as narrowing down past exposure to allow more effective contact tracing. It also identifies and isolates people with asymptomatic cases who would otherwise spread the virus unknowingly."

This story appeared in the Illinois Times on Aug. 13, 2020.