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NBA helps bring faster and easier coronavirus test to market

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of a faster and easier test for the coronavirus. The SalivaDirect test was developed for people who have no COVID symptoms. It's thought to be about 90% as accurate as other tests using nose and throat swabs.

The developers expect up to 200,000 samples a day could be processed.

And helping to bring the test to market? The National Basketball Association.

Before checking into their isolated Orlando bubble with its daily COVID tests, some NBA players and staff volunteered to give saliva samples along with their standard nose and throat swabs.

When the NBA saliva samples were analyzed at Nathan Grubaugh's Yale University lab, his team found the results stacked up to the gold-standard swab tests.  

The SalivaDrect coronavirus test uses a saliva sample rather than throat or nasal swabs.  Yale/SalivaDirect

"I think anybody would rather just spit into a tube than actually having the swab that goes really deep down into your nasal passage," Grubaugh told CBS News senior medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula.

First used on health care workers and hospitalized patients, SalivaDirect doesn't rely on special equipment or supplies like reagents, so many labs will be able to process the samples and get results quickly.

Grubaugh said, "This is set up to be something that you would receive your results within 24 hours. If you're doing routine surveillance and screening and you're not getting your results within a day, it's almost pointless to do."

Dr. Narula told "CBS This Morning" that, while the test is not meant for patients in hospitals but for people who are asymptomatic, the SalivaDirect tests could be beneficial for people getting back to work or school, health care workers, and nursing care facilities. "They can really screen or do routine surveillance on people by checking them either every day or a few times a week," she said. 

Each test would cost about $10. 

Co-host Tony Dokoupil asked Dr. Narula, "We know that the national testing picture still lags behind what experts say we need to be doing to control or suppress the virus. Could this saliva test change that dynamic?"

"The beauty of this test is that it's inexpensive, it's fast, it's definitely more comfortable, it saves PPE," she replied. "The idea is that it could increase potentially the ability to test by about 100,000 to 200,000 tests a day. 

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