The screening test using infrared light technology was developed by researchers from Monash University and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.
The preliminary use of the instrument detected COVID-19 in 27 of 29 subjects.
Monash University Professor Bayden Wood said the technology could be capable of screening 5000 samples a day per instrument, with results available in five minutes.
“The most significant advantages of using this infrared-based technology on saliva samples, include the speed and ease with which the test can be performed, its affordability and the reduced risk to both patients and healthcare workers,” Monash University Professor Bayden Wood said.
It also spares potentially infected people the discomfort of the long nasal swabs used in the current tests.
Instead a sample could be obtained by merely dribbling into a sterile container.
Similar technology has also been used by Monash researchers to diagnose malaria and hepatitis.
Researchers suggested the technology could be especially useful in screening people at airports, sporting venues, universities and schools.
The technology was developed with the use of a massive piece of scientific infrastructure called the Synchrotron, a $300 million facility in Melbourne.
The Synchrotron is run by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.