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Why does the KnowNowᵀᴹ test use a saliva sample?

We chose to design our unique KnowNowᵀᴹ test for COVID-19 infectiousness to work with a simple saliva sample, so that it would be comfortable and easy to administer, and to ensure that anyone would be happy to take a test every day if required. We believe that patient comfort and happiness leads to increased participation in routine testing, and ultimately increases the probability that COVID positive patients can be detected before they've had a chance to infect others.

The focus of our first clinical study was to assess the feasibility of using saliva sampling, to refine our saliva collection method, and also to assess the overall usability of the KnowNow test. This was a UK Government-supported National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) study carried out across ten UK hospitals with 100 patients participating. Through this study we determined that saliva sampling was both effective and user-friendly, and identified a specific swab for sampling. We chose not to opt for a spit collection method for our saliva sample, as providing a spit sample can be challenging for some patients, particularly the elderly or those suffering with COVID-19 symptoms.

For other COVID-19 tests, throat and nasopharyngeal swabbing is one of the most common types of sample collection. However, a number of studies have explored various issues with these types of sample collection, including:

  • The sample collection method requires a swab to be inserted into the patient's throat and/or far into their nostril and rotated, causing discomfort to patients due to the procedure’s invasiveness, and even inducing bleeding in their tonsils and posterior pharynx. (1)
  • The discomfort or even pain of the sample collection method has a detrimental impact on compliance for serial testing, as patients are unwilling to subject themselves to the test on a regular basis. (2)
  • Nasopharyngeal sample collection presents a considerable risk to healthcare workers, because it can induce patients to sneeze or cough, expelling virus particles. (2)
  • There are several situations where nasopharyngeal swabs would cause particular harm, such as in patients with coagulopathy, those undergoing anticoagulant therapy, or those with significant nasal septum deviation. (3)
  • These tests are not always successful at the first attempt, even though performed by trained healthcare workers, and shortages of swabs and protective equipment are frequently reported. (3)
  • They show relatively poor sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2 detection in early infection and are inconsistent during serial testing. (2)

Some tests have been designed to work with anterior nasal swabs, as a somewhat less invasive alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs. However, there is some evidence to suggest that nasal swab testing produces less sensitive results and may miss patients with lower viral loads (4).

References:

(1) Exploring salivary diagnostics in COVID-19: a scoping review and research suggestions

(2) Saliva is more sensitive for SARS-CoV-2 detection in COVID-19 patients than nasopharyngeal swabs

(3) Saliva as a Candidate for COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing: A Meta-Analysis

(4) Nasal-Swab Testing Misses Patients with Low SARS-CoV-2 Viral Loads

Why test people who don't have symptoms?

SARS-CoV-2 is able to spread from individuals who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. As a result, testing and isolation based on symptoms alone will not be sufficient to stop the spread.

This narrative review of 16 clinical studies around the globe concludes that between 40-45% of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 never develop symptoms, and that these asymptomatic carriers can infect others for an extended period, perhaps longer than 14 days.

Regular community testing with a rapid antigen test like the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test to identify asymptomatic, but infectious, individuals offers one way to break the chain of transmission and enable the re-opening of societies.

How sensitive is the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

What’s important when it comes to sensitivity is how much virus needs to be present in the patient sample for the test to give a positive signal. This is known as the 'Limit of Detection', and we measure this rather than clinical sensitivity as it is much more informative.

Our Limit of Detection is between 50,000 and 200,000 viral copies per mL, making our test more sensitive than other rapid antigen tests available. The Abbott BinaxNow test, for example, needs 1,000,000 viral copies per mL in order to get a positive signal.

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test's low Limit of Detection means it can detect infected people as early as day 3 to 4 of infection. This is before they become highly infectious, and a day or two earlier than most tests available (based on models of viral load in disease progression).

If you'd like to read more about this subject, we recommend reading this paper. It argues that the "Limit of Detection matters and directly impacts efforts to identify, control, and contain outbreaks during this pandemic" since "higher LoD are likely to miss nonnegligible fractions of infected individuals." It also makes the case that Limit of Detection values for tests using universal standard metrics should be readily available in the public domain to enable like-for-like comparison.

What is a KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is the UK's only on-the-spot COVID-19 test that uses just your saliva to tell you if you are currently able to infect someone else with COVID-19.

Unlike other tests, the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test won't give you a positive result if you have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past, but are no longer able to infect other people.

How much space do I need to store the tests?

One box contains 25 tests, and measures 20cm (L) x 21cm (W) x 8cm (H).

The space required depends on how many tests you require at any given time. However, as the KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests can be stored at any temperature between 2 and 30 degrees, special storage facilities should not be required in the UK, unless there is unusually hot weather.

How have you validated the accuracy of your tests?

To date we have conducted three clinical studies. The first was a UK Government-supported National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) study across ten UK hospitals; the second was with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and the third is a community study that we have led ourselves. We have also carried out our own analytical assessments, as well as two Public Health England analytical assessments.

We have worked with over 280 negative patient samples and around 100 COVID-19 positive patients across our studies. We are also currently carrying out a 650+ patient clinical trial with sites in the UK, USA and Brazil to provide us with a higher volume of clinical data, and with a view to additional regulatory approvals to widen the reach of the impact we can have globally in pandemic recovery.

How frequently should employees or visitors be tested?

We recommend that individuals are tested as regularly as possible to keep workplaces, venues and communities safe.

It is important to remember that individuals can still go on to be exposed to the virus following a negative test result. Additionally, a high proportion of infectious people show no symptoms at all, and so regular testing is key to breaking the chain of transmission.

Depending on the scenario, we would recommend that testing is performed every 2-3 days, or daily, depending on the scenario.

Is it necessary to perform multiple tests to be sure of the result?

It should not be necessary to perform more than one test on a given individual at a single point in time, unless the KnowNowᵀᴹ device test results window displays no lines at all, meaning that the test has failed, or unless it was not possible to read the test results within 15 to 60 minutes of applying the mixed saliva and buffer solution to the KnowNowᵀᴹ device.

However, receiving a negative result does not mean that the individual tested can't be exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus following the test. So we do recommend that individuals are tested regularly to keep workplaces and communities safe. Depending on the scenario, we would recommend testing is repeated every 1 to 3 days.

How should used KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests be disposed of?

Used tests, swabs and buffer dropper tubes should be disposed of as potentially hazardous clinical waste.

We have a vaccine now, do we need testing anymore?

Although vaccine rollout is progressing extremely quickly in the UK, the government expects that it will be the end of July 2021 before every adult in the UK has been offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Second doses should be received around 12 weeks after the first, and so it is likely to be the end of October 2021 before every adult has received both doses.

In the meantime, whilst we await full vaccine rollout, regular rapid antigen testing offers a way to enable the re-opening of society.

Beyond this, it is also important to consider that no vaccine is 100% effective even after 2 doses, that not everyone will accept or be able to have the vaccine, and that there is uncertainty as to whether the vaccines will work effectively against current or future mutations of the virus. We should also consider the fact that the UK is very much ahead of other countries around the world in progressing its vaccine rollout, and that it will still be some time before the vast majority of people globally will be vaccinated.

With these factors in mind, regular testing is likely to play a role in keeping societies safe and open for some time to come.

Who can administer the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test?

So that the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is used as effectively as possible, it currently needs to be administered by a trained healthcare professional.

A trained healthcare professional is defined by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the Target Product Profile for Point of Care SARS-CoV-2 Detection Tests as a professional belonging to one of the 10 health and social care professional bodies that are overseen by the Professional Standards Authority. You can find a list of these professions here.

However, since the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test needs just a saliva sample, it is much easier to administer effectively than other similar tests, and still return highly sensitive results. So we are investigating whether other specially-trained, competent individuals could be approved to administer KnowNow tests as well.

We are also in the process of trialling and seeking approval for a variation of the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test which could be administered by individuals themselves.

Had COVID - 19 symptoms in the last 2 days? Apply here to help us make testing accessible to all.