Nikkei staff writers
KYOTO — Japanese precision instrument maker Shimadzu will add saliva to the sample of PCR reagents to test for the new coronavirus, after the company confirmed it is as accurate as conventional methods.
Japan’s Ministry of Health plans to allow tests using saliva this month. The non-invasive procedure is simple and poses less risk of passing secondary infections. The company will expand its reagent supply and prepare for a possible second wave of infections.
Shimadzu is already marketing reagent for the virus. The method does not require extracting impurities that impede gene amplification. Test results can be returned in as little as 60 minutes.
The company is collaborating with Hokkaido University Hospital on the new method, and says results are as accurate as conventional methods of collecting throat or nose samples.
In early May, the Japan Medical Association requested the heath ministry to explore PCR tests using saliva, and asked Shimadzu to confirm efficacy.
As opposed to using saliva, conventional tests may induce sneezing, putting medical workers at risk — a major concern.
Shimadzu was expected to provide enough reagent for 100,000 people per month as of April, but will ramp up production to 600,000 by June.
The move comes as test demand is expected to rise amid the threat of a second wave of infections, mainly from Asia, Europe and the U.S, as well as emerging countries.