New COVID-19 spit test being studied in Racine, may bring faster results

With his hometown of Racine, a 'hot spot' for COVID-19 -- Christopher Mason just wanted to help.

“Many testing centers are featuring six, seven, even eight-day long delays to get testing results. And by the time you get those results, it's too late because the virus will have already spread,” Mason said.

An associate professor at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, he has been searching for a faster way to test for COVID-19.

So, he helped set up a mobile lab in the Racine City Hall Annex, where firefighters are trained to collect a few milliliters of saliva from city employees taking part in the study. From there...

"We're cooking the saliva at 95 degrees for 30 minutes to essentially kill the virus. And then from there, we're testing it," said Chief Brian Wolf of the Racine Police Department.

That limits the chance for spread within the lab.

Firefighters can then look for a reaction inside the sample with a technology called loop-mediated isothermic amplification — or lamp for short.

“And if it's present, it'll find it, and then the virus will quickly get amplified so we can see that it's present in saliva or in nasal swab,” Mason said.

It would turn the pink solution yellow and with results in about an hour.

They hope the data and the study will help curb the pandemic.

“We're going to keep moving forward with this as fast as we can to try to validate this test, and hopefully, we'll be able to open it up to a broader community once we are able to get the validation completed,” said Allison Kriegel, a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Allison Kriegel

Mason says his team is already planning to bring the study to Milwaukee and Madison, as well. 

Christopher Mason

If the study is validated, it's unclear when it would be brought to the public for broader use.