Diagnostic COVID-19 saliva tests catching on in Laval

Local CISSS is leading the way, as use of new testing method spreads

In keeping with a growing trend during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, health officials in Laval are increasing their use of saliva tests to check for the presence of coronavirus infection at CHSLDs as well as private seniors’ retirement facilities.

Practice spreading

According to recent news reports, COVID-19 saliva tests are now being administered each week to nearly 60 per cent of Laval-area CHSLD workers, and the practice is gradually spreading to other health and social services establishments on Laval’s territory.

According to CISSS de Laval microbiologist Olvier Haeck who spoke to a Montreal French-language daily recently, the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services had been pressuring the CISSS to regularly test employees working in seniors’ residences.

A new testing method

However, since many of these residences are currently being staffed by attendants with restricted training, they were unable to administer the more complex COVID-19 testing method involving an invasive nose swab. In addition, those receiving the nose test often didn’t want to undergo it again after the first time.

Around 2,500 CISSS de Laval caregivers are now routinely being given saliva tests to detect COVID-19 infection

As a result, the percentage of employees willing to be tested every week was relatively low. However, over the past summer another microbiologist at the CISSS de Laval experimented and managed to demonstrate that saliva testing could be just as accurate as the nose swab tests for detecting COVID-19.

Testing saliva

The saliva test consists essentially of depositing a sample of saliva in a small plastic container. As such, each week around 2,500 caregivers in Laval are routinely being given saliva tests in seniors residences and some other health care establishments in Laval.

As soon as an employee’s test comes back positive for COVID infection, all patients and employees with whom that employee was in contact are contact-traced and tested at least three times weekly. In some settings, the testing can be as often as once daily.

Laval sets the pace

Recent reports indicate that although saliva testing has also started to catch on in other regions of the province, Laval got a head start on the practice. A future stage could see COVID-19 saliva testing being used in school settings – possibly as a pilot project.

All activities bringing together more than 250 persons are cancelled until further notice

The move could help simplify the current testing method, which requires an entire class or an entire family to show up for appointments for testing when they’ve been in contact with just one individual infected with the coronavirus. The proposed new method would allow saliva samples to be taken in the home and submitted for testing.