UofSC offering saliva-based COVID-19 testing for campus community

UofSC offering saliva-based COVID-19 testing for campus community
(Source: Cuyahoga Community College)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The University of South Carolina will be offering a new and free COVID-19 saliva-based test to all students, faculty, and staff on the Columbia campus starting Wednesday, August 19.

The SAFE (Saliva Assay Free Expedited) test is a non-invasive alternative to nasal swab tests and enables rapid test processing, typically delivering results within 24 hours.

The SAFE test will make it possible for the university to test thousands of students and employees daily for COVID-19. There is no limit to testing frequency.

The test will be combined with other mitigation efforts, such as face coverings, physical distancing, hand washing, and contact tracing, to help slow the community spread of COVID-19 from asymptomatic carriers.

UofSC is the only school in South Carolina approved by DHEC with CLIA certification for diagnostic purposes and one of only a handful of universities nationwide approved to use saliva testing for diagnostic purposes.

The SAFE test works by identifying genetic material unique to the COVID-19 virus through a single saliva sample.

The project will be led by the UofSC’s College of Pharmacy, which received clearance last week from the Federal Drug Administration to begin the testing through its CLIA certified lab. However, final FDA approval is pending.

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

The SAFE test was developed by College of Pharmacy researchers. Successful collaboration with the university's COVID-19 planning team and West Columbia-based Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, supported the rollout to the university community. Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation donated 50,000 sample tubes to the project as well as a sophisticated 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," said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy. "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."

This week, walk-up testing will be available August 19th through August 21 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Davis Field II. In the case of inclement weather location will be moved to 650 Lincoln.

On August 24, testing will be available on the following schedule:

  • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday and Thursday from noon until 4 p.m. at 650 Lincoln

Upon arrival at the testing site, students, faculty and staff will need to login to the SAFE testing site via a smartphone. Samples will be collected and coded in a manner that ensures privacy and the information will be shared with Student Health Services through a secure, HIPAA compliant data link. Additional details on the SAFE testing process can be found on the College of Pharmacy's website.

To maximize safe physical distancing, those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have come into close contact with someone infected are encouraged to schedule an appointment through the Student Health Services testing website or call the SHS COVID-19 phone line at 803-576-8511 for guidance.

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