In an email to the VG newspaper Karoline Bragstad, an acting section manager at the organisation, said that the agency hoped the new tests would allow it to more rapidly ramp up the number of people tested.
“A saliva test taken by the patient themselves would be able to solve many of the bottlenecks which are stopping us being able to test more people,” she wrote.
“If the method proves to work well then it will be much easier to do more tests, we will be able to save on the use of protective equipment and may not be as vulnerable to deliveries of sampling equipment,” she said.
She said that patients often found the current methods of taking coronavirus tests, through a deep throat or nose swab, extremely uncomfortable.
“A test brush is inserted very far into the nose or far back into the throat,” she wrote. “The nose test in particular can be very unpleasant.”
The prospect of saliva tests was first mentioned in the institute's latest risk analysis, published on Wednesday, which estimated that the new testing method could be rolled out “within a few weeks”.
A simple saliva test could dramatically reduce the number of testing staff needed, and also save on protective equipment.
The laboratory analysis itself would not need to change, Bragstad said, only the method of collecting samples.
“We are optimistic, but must investigate further that this method is not significantly worse than a deep nose or throat test,” she said.
“It is an obvious goal that people will be able take the test themselves. But many people will still need to be tested in the usual way with a deep nose or throat test so we can also check for diseases other than Covid-19.”