Scientific Reports (Jul 2022)

Performance evaluation of a non-invasive one-step multiplex RT-qPCR assay for detection of SARS-CoV-2 direct from saliva

  • Harry H. Jenkins,
  • Ana A. Tellechea Lopez,
  • Francesco Saverio Tarantini,
  • Hannah Tomlin,
  • Danielle Scales,
  • I-Ning Lee,
  • Siyu Wu,
  • Ralph Hyde,
  • Katarzyna Lis-Slimak,
  • Timothy Byaruhanga,
  • Jamie L. Thompson,
  • Sara Pijuan-Galito,
  • Lara Doolan,
  • Kazuyo Kaneko,
  • Penny Gwynne,
  • Caroline Reffin,
  • Emily Park,
  • Jayasree Dey,
  • Jack Hill,
  • Asta Arendt-Tranholm,
  • Amy Stroud,
  • Moira Petrie,
  • Chris Denning,
  • Andrew V. Benest,
  • Claire Seedhouse

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 1
pp. 1 – 10


Read online

Abstract Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has proven to be the gold-standard for SARS-CoV-2 detection in clinical settings. The most common approaches rely on nasopharyngeal specimens obtained from swabs, followed by RNA extraction, reverse transcription and quantitative PCR. Although swab-based PCR is sensitive, swabbing is invasive and unpleasant to administer, reducing patient compliance for regular testing and resulting in an increased risk of improper sampling. To overcome these obstacles, we developed a non-invasive one-step RT-qPCR assay performed directly on saliva specimens. The University of Nottingham Asymptomatic Testing Service protocol simplifies sample collection and bypasses the need for RNA extraction, or additives, thus helping to encourage more regular testing and reducing processing time and costs. We have evaluated the assay against the performance criteria specified by the UK regulatory bodies and attained accreditation (BS EN ISO/IEC 17,025:2017) for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service. We observed a sensitivity of 1 viral copy per microlitre of saliva, and demonstrated a concordance of > 99.4% between our results and those of other accredited testing facilities. We concluded that saliva is a stable medium that allows for a highly precise, repeatable, and robust testing method.