A new Covid-19 testing method could slash the waiting time for results to mere minutes.
AgResearch, with support from fellow Crown Research Institute ESR, is leading the study into the new method which uses specialised machines to quickly measure hundreds of molecules in spit samples.
Lead researcher Alastair Ross said their goal is to determine whether this new method of detecting Covid-19 can be used within the next six months.
"Another advantage of this new rapid screening test would be simple and frequent monitoring of groups at greater risk of contracting the virus such as those working in quarantine facilities or in hospitals or other essential worker categories."
They envisage this new method will support the current testing methods used in New Zealand, Ross said.
"Our aim is to determine if this new approach to detecting Covid-19 will be viable within six months from the start of this project."
The research is being funded from the government's Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund
Dr Ross said the scientific literature shows that viral infections lead to metabolic changes that can be detected in blood using lab-based mass spectrometers.
A new generation of much smaller, more portable mass spectrometers is now available to find the "metabolic fingerprints" from samples within seconds of measurement.
"In this case we will use mass spectrometry to measure saliva for the presence of metabolic markers related to the virus and the body's subsequent immune response.
"Saliva, being near the airways, is close to where the virus causing Covid-19 has most impact, and the samples are easily accessible and not problematic for most people to provide."
This research is separate to another AgResearch-led project into testing for Covid-19, in which the scientists are seeking to develop a test that can detect infection much earlier using microRNA molecules as an indicator.