Manal Tadros, Temerty Faculty of Medicine; Aaron Campigotto, Temerty Faculty of Medicine
Universally accessible testing forms are the cornerstone of pandemic preparedness. The SARS COV-2 pandemic has specifically highlighted the inequities in testing and care. Nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs can often be traumatic to kids and rely on health care workers (HCW) for collection. Saliva, oral/nasal specimens, can be self-collected even in children, thus having potential for broader deployment, and allows testing in inaccessible areas, among underserved communities and even in schools. While providing a useful alternative to NP testing, these non-invasive specimens, remove the need for a HCW for testing. They also decrease the risk of exposure of HCW to respiratory pathogens and save resources. For all the above reasons, saliva, oral/nasal specimens were widely adopted for SARS-CoV-2 virus testing. However, data about their utility for testing for other respiratory viruses is lacking. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the clinical utility of saliva and oral/anterior nasal specimens for the detection of respiratory viruses other than SARS-CoV-2 in children by molecular methods compared to nasopharyngeal specimens. The use of these non-invasive specimen types would be extremely helpful as part of our pandemic readiness. This aligns with the objectives of the Institution of Pandemics especially the “Pandemic readiness” which looks at scientific tools to allow a timely response to a new pathogen. We believe that if saliva, oral/nasal specimens are comparable to NP specimens for detecting viral respiratory pathogens, this would remove a huge roadblock in testing accessibility, a crucial step in our readiness for another respiratory viral outbreak or pandemic.