How Do Scientists Know If You Have COVID-19?

Side-by-side photos of RIT students and activities with the text See How RIT is Advancing the Exceptional underneath.

In this exhibit, we are showing how to test for COVID-19 using saliva instead of nose swabs, using a method originally developed by the University of Colorado, that relies on the virus's genetic code to see if you're infected. It's also important to note that the test is non-diagnostic, which means it can't be used to diagnose whether or not you have COVID, but it can be helpful for figuring out if COVID-19 is spreading in a certain community.

In the first step of the test, the viruses are broken open by boiling to release their RNA, then added to a special mix of chemicals that turn the saliva pink. The chemicals include a special protein called polymerases, which look for whether or not certain genes are present. For this test, we are looking for the gene for the spike protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. If you are not infected (and thus do not have COVID-19 virus in you), the saliva will remain pink. Otherwise, if you are infected, the test will detect the virus and turn your saliva yellow.


Jonathan Chu,
Seema Thomas,
Serenity Ross,
Safiya Gazali,
Hunter Mascia

Dr. Seema Thomas

RIT Tiger Testiing

Thank you to all of our sponsors!

grid of festival sponsor logos.grid of festival sponsor logos.