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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

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.

Does the KnowNow Test identify all COVID-19 mutations?

The mechanism underpinning the KnowNowᵀᴹ test mimics the means through which the virus interacts with the surface of a human cell in order to detect it. As a result, we expect that it will continue to identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus even in the face of further potential mutation in the future, unlike tests based on antibodies.

We have modelled the difference between the Wuhan and 501Y mutations in a recombinant protein model to give us initial analytical evidence that the KnowNow test reacts to these variations of concern. And we are currently carrying out a study on live samples of these and other mutations to gather practical evidence of this.

In fact, we predict that the KnowNowᵀᴹ test may potentially become even more sensitive as the virus mutates to become more infectious. And we will continue to carry out further analyses and studies to support this prediction, and confirm that KnowNow continues to function on newer mutations as they arise.

How does KnowNowᵀᴹ compare to COVID-19 PCR tests?

KnowNowᵀᴹ offers two key benefits over polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The first benefit is that the KnowNowᵀᴹ test needs only a saliva sample, which can be taken easily and comfortably from the mouth. PCR tests usually need a nasopharyngeal, anterior nasal or tonsil sample, all of which are painful and unpleasant for the individual being tested and more challenging to collect effectively for the clinical professional administering the test. No one wants to be made to cry or gag, or make someone else cry or gag, on a regular basis!

The second benefit is that the KnowNow test uses its unique detection mechanism to determine whether an individual is actually infectious, whereas PCR tests identify whether SARS-CoV-2 viral matter is present in an individual's body, regardless of whether it is already inactive.

Although PCR tests have been seen as the "gold standard" test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, they do have a number of drawbacks. Laboratory processing is required, meaning that there is a delay before results can be returned, and the associated costs are relatively high. Also the detection mechanism does not specifically identify whether individuals are infectious. In fact, PCR tests detect the virus long after the infectious period, and individuals can continue to test positive for a mean of 17 days after they have stopped being able to infect others (source). This means that people who are not infectious are unnecessarily quarantined as a result of a positive PCR test.

What is SARS-CoV-2?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the name given by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) to the virus responsible for causing the disease, COVID-19.

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 300 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.

What is a lateral flow test?

A lateral flow test is a simple diagnostic device designed to detect the presence or absence of a target substance in a liquid sample without the need for specialised and costly equipment.

The most commonly recognised type of lateral flow rapid test strip is the pregnancy test.

How long will it take a qualified clinician to administer each test?

From our own studies with partners, we estimate that a clinical professional can administer one test every 3.5 to 4 minutes. This assumes that they collect saliva samples from individuals, set the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test devices aside to develop for 15 minutes, and collect samples from further individuals before reading the results from earlier tests.

How is a KnowNowᵀᴹ Test administered?

There are just 4 simple steps to the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test.

  1. Swab the mouth: The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test requires just a saliva sample to be taken easily and comfortably from the mouth. We know how uncomfortable and painful other lateral flow antigen tests or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can be, with swabs going high into nostrils and all the way back to tonsils. It was really important to us that people would feel happy to take a KnowNow test on a regular basis.
  2. Shake the tube: The saliva swab is placed into a buffer solution in a small tube, and shaken up to mix it well.
  3. Squeeze on panel: A few drops of the mixed solution is squeezed onto the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test device.
  4. Know in 15 minutes: It takes just 15 minutes for the positive or negative result to appear in the test result window on the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test device. No need to wait 24-48 hours for results, as you would with a PCR test.

Where do you make your KnowNowᵀᴹ tests?

KnowNowᵀᴹ Tests have been invented, developed and manufactured in the UK.

How soon after exposure would the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test give a positive result?

The KnowNowᵀᴹ test will show a positive result from day 3 or 4 after exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is earlier than other rapid antigen tests, which usually start to show positive results around day 5 or later.

This also means that individuals will receive a positive KnowNowᵀᴹ test 1 or 2 days before they are at very high risk of infecting others. So where there is a regular testing programme in place, individuals can quickly be isolated before they become highly infectious and the spread of the virus can be prevented.

The basis for this is our analysis of models of viral load in disease progression, such as the one shown within "Test sensitivity is secondary to frequency and turnaround time for COVID-19 screening" by Dr Michael Mina et al, alongside the low limit of detection of the KnowNowᵀᴹ test of 50,000 to 200,000 viral copies per mL.

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