Easy saliva testing for staff at Bruce McLaren

Bruce McLaren Retirement Village.

Staff at Bruce McLaren Retirement Village, Chapel Rd have taken a voluntary saliva tests this week to ensure they are Covid-free.

Ryman Healthcare and Hill Laboratories have teamed up to introduce fast-track Covid SalivaDirect tests at Ryman villages.

A game-changer of sorts, the saliva test is less invasive, much cheaper and eliminates the need for uncomfortable nasal swabs.

At this stage, saliva testing is only for the staff at New Zealand’s largest retirement village and aged care operator

Those taking the test have been told to refrain from eating or having a drink 20 minutes prior to the test. Samples will then be picked up by a courier service organised by Hills Laboratory.

Ryman Healthcare’s chief operations officer Cheyne Chalmers says the Hill Laboratories tests are an exciting new development in the campaign to keep Ryman’s villages free of Covid.

“Being able to test staff quickly, accurately and efficiently is an important extra safeguard for us. We want to do everything we can to keep the virus out.

“Being able to test ourselves with the help of the Hill Laboratories team means we can support the government testing programme and help speed up the testing process which is reassuring for both our residents, and our team.”

Hill Laboratories developed the saliva test for use in aged care last year.

During the first lockdown in March/April 2020 aged care operators, including Ryman, approached the Hill team for assistance with testing because of difficulties in getting access to tests.

While no testing was performed at that time, the Ryman and the Hill team continued working on it.

Hill Laboratories chief executive Dr Jonathan Hill says his team developed and validated a method for testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Covid-19) in saliva samples in August last year.

More recently, Hill Laboratories has implemented the SalivaDirect test, which was developed and published by the Yale School of Public Health, with the US FDA granting this methodology Emergency Use Authorization on August 15 2020.

“While roughly equivalent in terms of accuracy and sensitivity to the current nasopharyngeal swab PCR methodology being widely employed in New Zealand, the primary advantage of the new SalivaDirect methodology is that it tests saliva, rather than nasopharyngeal swabs,” Dr Hill says.

“Sample collection is non-invasive and can be performed by the donor alone by simply spitting into a pottle, without the requirement for trained sample collection personnel wearing PPE.”

The SalivaDirect test is a simple test, so the cost is considerably lower, making it more feasible to be used by companies for the purpose of proactive screening of asymptomatic people in high-risk environments.