HIGH POINT — A High Point-based health care provider has started offering a saliva test for COVID-19, a less intrusive and painful method than the nasal swab test.

Bethany Medical and its network of 65 medical providers announced Thursday it offers the new SalivaNow test for COVID-19. Results from the test come back in 24 to 48 hours, and it can detect all currently known strains of the coronavirus, including the more highly contagious United Kingdom and South African variants, the company said in a press release.

It is a PCR — polymerase chain reaction — test, which detects genetic material from the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize PCR as the preferred method for diagnosis of an active infection. A negative PCR test is a standard requirement for returning to many universities, athletic programs and employers.

Saliva-based PCR testing has proven to be as accurate as nasal swab PCR testing in detecting coronavirus infection, according to a Jan. 15 article published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Bethany Medical President Elise Peters Carey said the tests may appeal to people who have been hesitant to have a swab inserted far up their nasal passage.

“We feel it is important for us to be able to provide our patients an accurate and comfortable alternative to the upper nasal swabs that so many of us have experienced or at least seen on TV,” she said.

Bethany continues to offer a nasal swab test that can return results in 15 minutes. It is an antigen test, which the CDC says is less sensitive than a PCR test.

Bethany Medical also continues to offer its standard COVID-19 antibody tests. These tests are ideal for patients who want to understand their immunity after a recent COVID-19 vaccination or a prior COVID-19 exposure, the company said.

Bethany Medical has 10 medical practice locations throughout the Triad open seven days a week.