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Israeli researchers develop fast and simple COVID-19 saliva test

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The process takes less than an hour if done on-site, and dozens or even hundreds of samples can be processed simultaneously

By ILANIT CHERNICK

Israeli researchers at Haifa’s Technion – the Israel Institute for Technology have developed a revolutionary rapid and simple COVID-19 test that is based on a saliva sample, which can be done at home or at work.

According to the Technion, the sample is put through a short isothermal, or heating, process and the test rapidly detects the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Technion announced their extensive testing operation “as a fundamental protective measure for dormitory residents.”

Named the NaorCov19 test, it was developed in April 2020 by Prof. Naama Geva-Zatorsky of the Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.

“The NaorCov19 test rapidly detects the SARS-CoV-2… [and] the process takes less than an hour if done on-site,” the Technion said in a statement. “Dozens or even hundreds of samples can be processed simultaneously.” 

If a person tests positive for coronavirus, the solution turns yellow and if a person is negative, the solution remains red.

With the NaorCov19 being such a simple test, “it’s suitable for rapid testing on campuses and schools, at workplaces, airports and even onboard airplanes. It is also scheduled for self-testing at home.”

Addressing how students and staff are tested on the campus itself, the Technion said that “students and staff leave saliva samples at stations around campus and use their phones to record them. 

“They are then electronically notified about the results within a few hours of the sample collection,” it said, adding they are encouraged to be tested at least once a week, in order to reduce the risk of campus infection.

 The on-campus Naor tests are being performed as part of a study that has received the approval of the local institutional review board (IRB).

As part of their plan to keep students and staff at the university safe during this period, the Technion has implemented a multi-layer approach.

At the start of the 2020-21 academic year, the Technion administration announced the Creating an Open and Safe Campus initiative, which offers multi-layered protection of campus visitors.

The First Layer is strict adherence to the “purple badge” rules, which include wearing a mask, hygiene, and social distancing.

The Second Layer involves the monitoring of the campus sewage system “using novel technology developed at the Technion by Prof. Eran Friedler of the Department of Environmental and Water Engineering.” 

He explained that “sewage testing supports the monitoring of a large population, effectively and rapidly locating cases without the need to reach each individual. It has already effectively disrupted potential chains of coronavirus infection.”

The soon to be implemented Third Layer is the Technion-developed NaorCov19 test, which will help track and diagnose cases on campus in a non-invasive way.

The Fourth Layer involves regular PCR tests for those who have relevant symptoms or who test positive on the NaorCov19 test. 

“Since the NaorCov19 test is still waiting for the approval of Israel’s Ministry of Health, persons who test positive go on to take a regular PCR test for confirmation,” the university added.

Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan “To protect the health of campus visitors and residents, to lead as normal a lifestyle as possible, and to return to routine life during the pandemic, it is necessary to break the chain of infection rapidly, through effective monitoring and diagnosis.” 

He said that “living alongside COVID-19 is an enormous challenge for all the population, and I hope and believe the rapid implementation of the novel technologies developed by Technion researchers will assist us in arresting the spread of the virus, and that it will serve as a model for other places across the country.”

The technology has been commercialized by the Technion for further development by Rapid Diagnostic Systems Ltd., which is developing the molecular diagnostic platform under the name NAOR. 

“The technology had been field-tested and developed in collaboration with multiple institutions and researchers including MAFAT, which is the research and development arm of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, as well as and the Rambam Health Care Campus,” the Technion concluded.

*Featured Image: The NaorCov19 test. (Photo Credit: Nitzan Zohar, Technion Spokesperson’s Office.)

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