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USC to offer saliva-based COVID-19 test

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Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled the names of Drs. Phillip Buckhaults, Carolyn Banister and Michael Shtutman, as well as Davis Field II. They have been corrected.

The University of South Carolina will begin offering a saliva-based COVID-19 test to all students, faculty and staff on the Columbia campus today.

The Saliva Assay Free Expedited test, developed by researchers in the university’s College of Pharmacy, is a noninvasive alternative to nasal swab tests that identifies the virus’s genetic material. Results are typically available within 24 hours, according to a news release from the university, which said it will be able to test thousands of people daily.

The College of Pharmacy received clearance last week from the Food and Drug Administration to begin the testing through its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified lab, according to the release. Final FDA approval is pending.

“The saliva test is faster, as accurate and less expensive when compared to the nasopharyngeal swab test,” Stephen Cutler, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said in the release. “We are grateful for the research vision of Drs. Phillip Buckhaults, Helmut Albrecht, Carolyn Banister, Michael Wyatt, Julie Sease and Michael Shtutman.”

The university’s COVID-19 planning team collaborated with West Columbia-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp., which donated 50,000 sample tubes as well as a robot used for automated sample processing.

“If we want to stop the spread of this deadly virus, we have to expand COVID-19 screening where breakouts can occur, such as college campuses, and that is why this partnership with Carolina is so important,” Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy said. “Returning to normal begins with reliable, rapid testing. We are proud to welcome the Gamecock family back to campus by working together with the university to make this kind of test available.”

Walkup testing will be available today, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Davis Field II, the area between the Thomas Cooper Library, the library fountain and Longstreet Theater. In case of inclement weather, testing will be held at 650 Lincoln.

Beginning Aug. 24, testing will be available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Davis Field II and on Tuesday and Thursday from noon until 4 p.m. at 650 Lincoln.

Upon arrival at the testing site, students, faculty and staff will login to the SAFE testing site via a smartphone. Samples will be collected and coded to ensure privacy, and information will be shared with USC’s Student Health Services through a secure, HIPAA-compliant data link.

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