SASKATOON -- A local dentist and researcher is working at the University of Saskatchewan to develop a test to detect the coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, in saliva.

Walter Siqueira, who is also the associate dean of the College of Dentistry, said he is hoping this test will provide a quick way to identify the rapidly spreading virus.

Siqueira said he has helped develop saliva tests for Zika virus and HIV in the past, adding that this one would work in a similar way.

"We envision basically having some kind of swab to collect the saliva. Could be a method that changes the colour like a pregnancy test, that says you have the virus present in your saliva or not,” he said.

COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, where thousands of cases have been reported. It has since spread to other countries.

Siquiera is warning dentists about the high rates of transmission, saying it’s important to ensure tools are always sterilized.

"The corona virus could have some potential to be transmitted in the dental office because it's present in saliva and the dentists deal with saliva when do any type of dental procedure. But here in Saskatchewan and the rest of the country, we keep a very high standard in terms of infection prevention control,” he said.

Siqueira said the test he is developing could be used by both dental and medical professionals.

He is also hoping it will be available around the world.

Siqueira said he’s waiting to get samples of COVID-19 before he can move further into testing.