Saliva test tubes here in Spain. – OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

  • Faced with the increased risk of contamination when returning from vacation, National Education hopes to block it with massive screenings in classes.
  • Jean-Michel Blanquer announced this Saturday the launch of a campaign of saliva tests, easier to carry out with young children and in communities.
  • But for now, the number of samples expected in the next two weeks remains modest.

The holidays are already over for the students of zone A who will return to the classrooms this Monday with a health protocol modified at the margin only. But with a novelty all the same: the launch of a screening campaign in schools using saliva tests. 20 Minutes explains what you need to know about this method of researching Covid-19.

How it works ?

This is clearly the simplest test on the market: the collection of saliva is done in a tube provided in a collection kit, not to be put in the refrigerator afterwards. No story of a large cotton swab in the nose, which could put off some. The sample should not be taken within 30 minutes after eating, smoking or brushing teeth.

Besides the fact that it is a less invasive test (and therefore practical for young children) it can be done at home, or, in this case, at school. The only condition is that the time limit for submitting the self-sample to the laboratory must be as short as possible and not exceed five hours. For children under the age of six, who do not necessarily know how to spit, there is the possibility of collecting the saliva using a small pipette, favoring self-sampling rather than in the laboratory, white coats tending to impress children.

A reliable result quickly?

The results are reliable, but a little less than for nasopharyngeal tests. In a study carried out in Toulouse, where saliva screening and nasopharyngeal screening were performed on the same people, the former were able to detect more than 82% of people actually positive, reports LCI. It works less well on people who have a lower viral load, as with any test. However, this “defect” is offset by the ease of the test and the fact that a person with a low viral load is less contagious.

However, this is not a quick test. These saliva tests are not antigen tests, they are also PCR tests. Since the start of the pandemic, popular common sense has made “PCR test” a synonym for “nasopharyngeal test”, which is not true. A laboratory must take care of the analyzes. But, after several weeks of embolism of the system in the fall, the time between collection and the result of a PCR test was greatly reduced.

What device?

The simplicity of these tests, and especially the fact that they can be performed elsewhere than in the laboratory, make them suitable for screening in communities, as is the objective here. This is also what the High Authority for Health (HAS) recommends: it should be used “especially for iterative screening. [répété] in targeted populations such as schools, universities, nursing homes, nursing staff, ”said Dominique Le Guludec, director of HAS.

Even if they are intended to be massive, these withdrawals will not be compulsory. “Parental authorization will be necessary”, explains the Ministry of National Education quoted by West France. Jean-Michel Blanquer assured this Sunday that “between 50,000 and 80,000 tests” would be carried out “from next week”, to reach 200,000 tests per week. These figures, if they seem important, nevertheless represent only a small fraction of the pupils in France. Nearly 12.5 million people go to school, college or high school in France. We must also add more than a million people to include the staff of National Education.

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