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Image from University of South Carolina website.

The University of South Carolina will begin offering a new and free COVID-19 saliva-based test to all students, faculty and staff on the Columbia campus. The new type of testing will begin Wednesday.

The SAFE (Saliva Assay Free Exp edited) test is a non-invasive alternative to nasal swab tests and enables rapid test processing, typically delivering results within 24 hours.

The SAFE test makes it possible for the university to test thousands of students and employees daily for COVID-19. There is no limit to testing frequency. Combined with other safety efforts, the saliva testing will be an important tool in slowing the spread of the coronavirus from asymptomatic carriers.

UofSC is the only school in South Carolina approved by SC DHEC with CLIA certification for diagnostic purposes and one of only a handful of universities nationwide approved to use saliva testing for diagnostic purposes.

It is described as "highly accurate," and able to identify genetic material unique to the COVID-19 virus through a single saliva sample.

The project is led by the UofSC’s College of Pharmacy, which received clearance last week from the Federal Drug Administration to begin the testing through its CLIA certified lab. Final FDA approval is pending.

“The saliva test is faster, as accurate and less expensive when compared to the nasopharyngeal swab test. We are grateful for the research vision of Drs. Phillip Buckhaults, Helmut Albrecht, Carolyn Bannister, Michael Wyatt, Julie Sease and Michael Stutman,” said College of Pharmacy Dean Stephen Cutler.

The SAFE test was developed by College of Pharmacy researchers. Successful collaboration with the university’s COVID-19 planning team and Nephron Pharmaceuticals, supported the rollout to the university community. Nephron donated 50,000 sample tubes to the project as well as a sophisticated robot used for automated sample processing. Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy said they are proud to welcome the Gamecock family back to campus by working to help make this kind of testing available.

Walk-up testing will be available this week Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Davis Field II (area located between the Thomas Cooper Library, the fountain and Longstreet Theater.) Inclement weather location is 650 Lincoln.

Beginning next week (Aug. 24), testing will be available on the following schedule:

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Davis Field IIee. Inclement weather location is 650 Lincoln.

Tuesday and Thursday from noon until 4 p.m. at 650 Lincoln (Located next door to Tropical Smoothie Café in the space formally occupied by 9Round UofSC Campus).

Upon arrival at the testing site, students, faculty and staff will need to login to the SAFE testing site via a smartphone. Samples will be collected and coded in a manner that ensures privacy and the information will be shared with Student Health Services through a secure, HIPAA compliant data link. Additional details on the SAFE testing process can be found on the College of Pharmacy’s website.

To maximize safe physical distancing, those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have come into close contact with someone infected are encouraged to schedule an appointment through the Student Health Services testing website or call the SHS COVID-19 phone line at 803-576-8511 for guidance.

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