Evaluating the implementation of a saliva-based screening program for detection of COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous suffering, mortality, and economic disturbance worldwide. To safely and effectively reopen businesses and universities across the U.S., institutions need to develop approaches to rapidly identify COVID-19 cases and manage their spread while balancing program effectiveness, feasibility, costs, and scalability. For this to work, widespread COVID-19 testing is required. Unfortunately, currently approved testing options are expensive and require reagents that are limited in supply, severely hindering scalability. Emerging evidence indicates that saliva testing with the option of self-administered sample collection can accurately identify COVID-19 viral infection. However, implementation of a COVID-19 saliva-based screening program has not been well tested. 


Covid SAFE is a saliva-based surveillance program that uses a test developed by Penn Medicine scientists. The test is intended to be rapid and relatively cost-effective. It uses internally developed reagents to avoid potential supply chain shortages. To design, test, and scale its use, members of the Nudge Unit are conducting an observational clinical trial. Participants are asked to submit a saliva sample regularly, and those with positive testing are referred for appropriate management. Since enrollment in clinical trials is sometimes lower than optimal, we're also conducting a randomized trial that uses insights from behavioral economics to test different recruitment strategies. Covid SAFE is currently operating as a screening program for over 4,000 members of the Penn Medicine community and has conducted over 24,000 tests.


This study is currently in progress.


Penn Medicine, Rapid Assay Task Force, and Way to Health


Penn Medicine