Dubai introduces new saliva test to detect COVID-19 in children


This new test was introduced because children find it very uncomfortable to take the nasal swab test.
Image Credit: Provided

Dubai: Saliva tests for COVID-19 in children aged 3 to 16 have been launched at all Dubai Health Authority (DHA) facilities and at COVID-19 testing centers run by DHA in the emirate of Dubai, senior DHA officials said on Sunday.

This new test was introduced because children find it very uncomfortable to take the nasal swab test and parents find it inconvenient for their children to take the test. The new saliva test, which is based on new research-based evidence, will take away the discomfort and encourage children to get tested.

High level of precision

Research which was led by Mohammad bin Rashid University (MBRU) in conjunction with DHA found that the saliva test had a diagnostic accuracy of over 90%. The research team collected saliva and nasal swabs from 476 children who presented for COVID-19 testing at DHA testing facilities. The saliva samples were collected in sterile containers, and at the same time, the children provided nasal swab samples taken by trained healthcare professionals to compare with the saliva results. The samples were then tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 at the DHA virology laboratory.

The results of the study showed that saliva could be used for viral detection with 87.7% sensitivity and 98.5% specificity. The positive and negative predictive values ​​for the saliva test were 92.2% and 97.6% respectively. These results show that saliva is a useful diagnostic sample for screening children for COVID-19.

Healthcare professionals like the simple test

Dr Farida Al Khaja, CEO of Clinical Support Services and Nursing Sector of DHA, said: “For children in particular, it is very beneficial as it eliminates the discomfort associated with a nasal swab test, which means children will be comfortable and find the test. comfortable. This joint effort highlights how research data can help develop public health policies to provide the highest standards of medical care to the population.

Dr Hanan Al Suwaidi, study principal investigator 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 to guide decision-makers in decision-making. We are very proud that Dubai’s efforts in tackling this pandemic are research-driven and evidence-based. “

Dr Al Suwaidi said the other benefits of using saliva for testing reduce the risk to frontline healthcare professionals and reduce the strain on critical healthcare equipment, while eliminating the need for ” use preservatives. She added that it was a cost effective method of mass testing.

The study, a first in the UAE and the MENA region, and the world’s largest saliva study for COVID-19 testing in children to date, was a close collaborative effort between MBRU and DHA . The study was approved by the DHA Human Research Ethics Board and has been subject to peer review.


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