Indonesia launches saliva-based COVID-19 test kit

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JAKARTA, Indonesia

Kalbe Farma, Indonesia’s largest pharmaceutical company, on Thursday announced the launch of a saliva-based COVID-19 test kit.

Irawati Setiady, president commissioner of the firm, said the test kit was developed last year and approved by the Health Ministry this month.

She claimed it is far more accurate than the antigen tests done by laboratories because it uses the Reverse Transcription Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP) method to specifically detect the nucleic acid that constitutes the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“Results of clinical trials showed that the kit has 94% sensitivity and 98% specificity,” Setiady said during an online news conference on Thursday.

She said the test is more comfortable and practical than others on the market and does not require any special equipment.

It will be sold under the name InnoLAMP and costs 488,000 Indonesian rupiah ($34), according to the official.

However, Akterono Dwi Budiyati, a researcher who worked on the project, warned that it may also be possible to get a false positive or negative result because the test relies on pH indicators in saliva.

Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s research and technology minister, said the test could help speed up testing and contact tracing in areas without adequate infrastructure for RT-PCR tests.

He said saliva-based tests have been used in other countries and this kit may bolster the fight against COVID-19 in Indonesia, where the overall case count is now over 1.48 million, including some 40,000 deaths.

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