Validation of Snort-spit Saliva in Detecting COVID-19 Using RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Detection Test
Objective. To determine the diagnostic accuracy of self-collected snorted and spit saliva in detecting COVID-19 using RT-PCR (ssRT-PCR) and lateral flow antigen test (ssLFA) versus nasopharyngeal swab RT-PCR (npRT-PCR).
Methods. One hundred ninety-seven symptomatic subjects for COVID-19 testing in a tertiary hospital underwent snort-spit saliva self-collection for RT-PCR and antigen testing and nasopharyngeal swab for RT-PCR as reference. Positivity rates, agreement, sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratios were estimated.
Results. Estimated prevalence of COVID-19 using npRT-PCR was 9% (exact 95% CI of 5.5% - 14.1%). A higher positivity rate of 13% in the ssRT-PCR assay suggested possible higher viral RNA in the snort-spit samples. There was 92.9% agreement between ssRT-PCR and npRT-PCR (exact 95% CI of 88.4% to 96.1%; Cohen’s Kappa of 0.6435). If npRT-PCR will be assumed as reference standard, the estimated Sensitivity was 83.3% (exact 95% CI of 60.8% to 94.2%), Specificity 93.9% (exact 95% CI of 89.3% to 96.5%), Positive predictive value of 57.7% (exact 95% CI of 38.9% to 74.5%), Negative predictive value of 98.2% (exact 95% CI of 95% to 99.4%), positive likelihood ratio of 3.65 (95% CI of 7.37 to 24.9), negative likelihood ratio of 0.178 (95% CI of 0.063 to 0.499). There was 84.84% agreement (95% exact CI of 79.1% to 89.5%; Cohen’s Kappa of 0.2356) between ssLFAvs npRT-PCR, sensitivity of 38.9% (exact 95% CI of 20.3% to 61.4%), specificity of 89.4% (exact 95% CI of 84.1% to 93.1%), PPV of 26.9% (95% CI of 13.7% to 46.1%), NPV of 93.6% (exact 95% CI of 88.8% to 96.4%), LR+ of 3.67 (95% CI of 1.79 - 7.51), LR – of 0.68 (95% CI of 0.47 - 0.99).
Conclusion. Our data showed that snort-spit saliva RT-PCR testing had acceptable diagnostic performance characteristics and can potentially be used as an alternative to the standard nasopharyngeal/oropharyngeal swab RT-PCR test for COVID-19 in certain situations. However, our data also showed that snort-spit saliva antigen testing using lateral flow assay did not offer acceptable performance.