SINGAPORE - Saliva testing has recently been made available for use here as an option for Covid-19 pre-departure tests for travellers to certain countries which allow it.

Local biomedical start-up Lucence has started working with clinics and telemedicine providers to offer saliva testing for those travelling overseas, The Straits Times has learnt.

ST has contacted the Ministry of Health for more information.

Travellers are expected to check on the travel advisories of their destination countries to determine their eligibility for Covid-19 saliva tests, said Lucence on its website.

For instance, countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada and Japan currently accept saliva-based pre-departure tests.

Collecting saliva samples for Covid-19 tests, as opposed to swabs taken through the back of the nose and mouth, has been touted as a preferred method of testing as it is non-invasive and less uncomfortable.

A study of 200 migrant workers in Singapore conducted in June last year found that the saliva samples were more sensitive compared with nasal swab samples in diagnosing those with asymptomatic or mild Covid-19 infection.

The study, sponsored by Changi Airport, was led by the National University of Singapore and Lucence, and also involved the Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore General Hospital.

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports, from Nature Publishing Group, in February this year.

Lucence chief executive Tan Min-Han said that the company has received interest from families with young children and elderly people since saliva testing was approved on Dec 2, as these groups of people tend to be more afraid of nasal swabs.

The saliva collection kit, known as Safer-Clinic, was initially developed in conjunction with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research and was registered as a medical device with the Health Sciences Authority in September last year.

About 0.5ml of saliva is collected through a funnel connected to a collection tube.

A bottle of stabilisation fluid containing a reagent is then mixed into the sample, which stabilises the viral RNA - the genetic material of the virus - at room temperature for up to one week.

The collected samples will be sent to Lucence for analysis.

Currently, two clinics here are offering the saliva test - Gainhealth Clinic in Ang Mo Kio, and telemedicine company MyDoc.

Gainhealth Clinic is offering the saliva test for $145, according to checks by ST.

Plans are in place to get more clinics and telemedicine providers on board to offer saliva testing, said Dr Tan.

The results of the saliva test will be available within 24 hours, and the pricing is similar to that of regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests for pre-departure Covid-19 tests. PCR tests for travellers range from $107 to $200.