Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (922)

Paul McAuliffe


922. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health his plans to move to saliva-based testing for Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26989/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The HSE has adopted RNA PCR as the gold standard test for diagnosing Covid-19 cases, as part of the HSE test and trace strategy, consistent with international best practice, and approved by NPHET.  This platform is deployed in acute hospitals, the NVRL and HSE’s commercial partners. Given the volumes required, these operate as batch tests and hence take a number of hours depending on the platform and the volume being processed.

The HSE uses rapid tests in key clinical settings, such as in our hospitals for emergency and surgical care.  These are rapid PCR tests which give results in short timeframes, for example less than an hour. As part of the HSE’s testing and tracing plan, it is trying to increase the number of these available as there is significant international demand and supply challenges. These tests only work in very small numbers so are not appropriate for large scale community testing.

Many of the rapid non-PCR Covid tests reported in the media, which purport to offer a test result in minutes (for example antigen tests) lack the sensitivity and specificity required for healthcare.  However, this issue continues to be monitored by WHO, ECDC, HIQA, and the HSE Laboratory taskforce.

The HSE believes that antigen and other types of testing, such as saliva testing, may well have a role in testing of asymptomatic people. It is constantly monitoring the sensitivity of these tests to ensure that where deployed they will be of appropriate quality and sensitivity. Again, this will not replace the requirement for large scale PCR testing which remains the gold standard for community testing.