Japan Greenlights Saliva-Based PCR Test to Detect COVID-19

TOKYO – The Japanese Health Ministry on Tuesday approved the use of saliva to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the detection of COVID-19 infections.

"We have made saliva-based PCR testing available from today," Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told a press conference.

The new testing method, which is believed to be easier and safer, is covered by the public health insurance, and will be used in patients who have been symptomatic within a nine-day timeframe.

"Accordingly, we are approving saliva-based PCR testing for those who are within the first nine days after having first signs of symptoms. We revised the manual for collecting samples for the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, and we will partially revise and apply insurance coverage to the currently approved PCR testing kits," Kato said.

He added that using saliva-based tests would greatly reduce the burden on patients and health care institutions.

"Going forward, saliva-based testing will make it possible to provide conclusive diagnosis, and we expect that this will greatly reduce the burden on patients and on the infection protection efforts of institutions collecting samples."

Japan currently uses the nose-swabbing method, which leaves medical workers collecting the sample prone to potential infection if a patient sneezes or coughs during the procedure. - Florenda Corpuz

(Photo credit: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS)