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Coronavirus saliva testing now available through private labs in El Paso

EL PASO, Texas -- As concerns over the lack of testing grow, Covid-19 saliva test kits are now slowly being administered in El Paso.

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized private laboratories to provide the kits, including MicroGen Diagnostics, a molecular diagnostics lab out of Orlando, Florida.

“Early on we looked at the validating nasal swabs...because that was pretty much what the CDC guidance was," said CEO of MircoGenDX, Rick Martin. "You had to have a nasal swab to detect this virus."

According to Martin, data has show that sputum, or saliva with mucus, had a higher detection of coronavirus than nasal swabs.

Martin said MicroGenDx found a number of cases where results for patients who were showing symptoms of the coronavirus would be negative when a nasal swab was used. However, results would be positive when saliva kits were used.

Health care providers purchase the test, which costs $99 each, and then administer to patients. Patients then provide a sample of their saliva in a cup. The samples are then shipped over night to their laboratory in Lubbock.

“We have a capacity to do about 1,000 samples every hour and a half,” Martin said.

In El Paso, Sun City Emergency Room and UCARE Urgent Care are currently providing the test. El Paso's MicroGenDX representative suggests patients contact their primary doctor to ask if they can provide the test.

According to El Paso's MicroGenDX representative, several health care providers are only charging patients the visit to see the doctor, while Medicare patients are covered.

“I think is has a lot of advantages to increasing testing and putting health care workers at risk and equal important and not having to use the personal protective equipment they need to keep them from getting infected," Martin said.

Martin is currently in contact with the FDA to compare the differences of their tests, specifically including the accuracy of their test kits and detection rate.

"We'll know in a couple of days whether its superior when we actually do a paired sample, meaning we take one of each sample type from the same patient from the same time by a health care provider," Martin said.

Coronavirus / Coronavirus Video / El Paso / News / Video

Brianna Chavez

Brianna Chavez is an ABC-7 reporter/producer.

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