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Rutgers University researchers have received U.S. government clearance for the first saliva test to help diagnose COVID-19, a new approach that could help expand testing options and reduce risks of infection for health care workers.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the test under its emergency powers to quickly clear new tests and therapies to fight the outbreak, the New Jersey university said Monday. The test initially will be available through hospitals and clinics affiliated with the school. The announcement comes as communities across the U.S. continue to struggle with testing to help track and contain the coronavirus.

The current approach to screening for COVID-19 requires health care workers to take a swab from a patient’s nose or throat. To lessen infection risks, many hospitals and clinics instruct staff to discard gloves and masks after close contact with anyone who may have the virus. And many institutions are struggling with shortages of basic medical supplies, including gloves, masks and swabs.

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With the new saliva-based test, patients are given a plastic tube into which they spit several times. They then hand the tube back to the health care worker for laboratory processing.

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