University of Technology Sydney researchers say they have developed a sensitive saliva test which can pick up SARS-CoV-2 viral fragments in less than 15 minutes.

Trials are set to start on the saliva test at the end of the year, say UTS researchers

The test prototype is set to be manufactured in Perth and will cost less than $25 per test. Laboratory trials on live virus are expected to begin before the end of the year.

The university’s Dr Dayong Jin said in a statement on Monday that the test was sensitive enough to detect the presence of as little as a trillionth of a gram of SARS-CoV-2 viral fragments.

Contact Tracing vastly improved

“A person with COVID-19 may be contagious 72 hours before starting to show symptoms. With the sensitivity of our optical technology, we aim to identify the viral protein in saliva from asymptomatic but already infectious patients,” Dr Jin said in a statement.

“This would allow for much more effective contact tracing and rapid discovery of pockets of disease before it is transmitted to others.”

With a hard border in place in WA and travel restrictions of varying severity implemented across Australia’s other states, the researchers said rapid COVID-19 testing could boost virus detection and help in the screening of travellers.

It could also be useful in hospital, aged care and employment settings.

Also the Australian government announced it would put $6 million towards the research and development of three local COVID-19 vaccine candidates, via the Medical Research Future Fund.