Dubai: Saliva testing for COVID-19 for children in the age group of 3-16 years has been initiated across all Dubai Health Authority (DHA) facilities and DHA-run COVID-19 screening centres in the emirate of Dubai, top DHA officials announced on Sunday.
This new testing has been introduced as children find it very uncomfortable to get the nasal swab test and parents find it inconvient for their kids to take the test. The new saliva test, which is based on a new research based evidence will eliminate the discomfort and encourage kids to be screened.
The research which was headed by the Mohammad bin Rashid University (MBRU) jointly with the DHA found the saliva test to have above 90 per cent diagnostic accuracy. The research team took saliva and nasal swabs from 476 children who presented for COVID-19 screening at DHA screening facilities. The saliva specimens were collected in sterile containers, and at the same time, the children provided nasal swab specimens collected by trained health care professionals for comparison with the saliva results. The samples were then tested for detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19 at the DHA Virology Laboratory.
The findings of the study showed that saliva could be used for viral detection with 87.7 per cent sensitivity and 98.5 per cent specificity. The positive and negative predictive values for saliva test were 92.2 per cent and 97.6 per cent respectively. These results show that saliva is a useful diagnostic specimen for COVID-19 screening in children.
Dr Farida Al Khaja, CEO of DHA’s Clinical Support Services and Nursing Sector said: “For children, in particular, it is highly beneficial as it eliminates the discomfort associated with a nasal swab test, which means children will be at ease and find the test comfortable. This joint effort highlights how research-based data can help develop public health policies to provide the highest-standards of medical care to the population.”
Dr Hanan Al Suwaidi, Lead Investigator of the study and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, MBRU, added: “This study is an example of translational research that can impact policy and practice and help guide policymakers in decision-making. We are very proud that Dubai’s efforts in fighting this pandemic have been research-driven and evidence-based.”
Dr Al Suwaidi said that other advantages of employing saliva for testing are reducing the risk to frontline health care professionals and reducing the strain on critical health equipment as well as eliminating the need to use preservatives. She added that it is a cost-efficient method of mass testing.
The study, a first in the UAE and the MENA region, and is the world’s largest study of saliva for COVID-19 testing in children to date was a close collaborative effort between MBRU and DHA. The study received approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee at DHA and has been submitted for peer-review publication.