Dubai approves saliva-based Covid-19 testing for children

Dubai - The method eliminates the inconvenience of a nasal swab collection, which can be unsettling for children


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File photo (NCEMA/Twitter)
File photo (NCEMA/Twitter)

Published: Sun 22 Nov 2020, 12:57 PM

Last updated: Sun 22 Nov 2020, 2:16 PM

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) facilities and screening centres have adopted saliva-based Covid-19 testing for children aged 3 to 16 years.

The test costs Dh150 — the same as a PCR test in Dubai — and the results are made available within 24 hours.

The “research-driven and evidence-based move” comes after a joint study by the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and DHA highlighted the diagnostic accuracy of the saliva-based test in children.

“The move will ensure a more comfortable method of Covid-19 testing for children and eliminate the inconvenience of a nasal swab collection, which can be unsettling for children,” the DHA said.

The research team took both saliva and nasal swabs from 476 children who went for Covid-10 screening to DHA facilities. The samples were then tested for detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus.

The study found 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 tests 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,” the DHA added.

Dr Farida Al Khaja, CEO of the DHA’s clinical Support Services and Nursing Sector, said the method would put children at ease. “This joint effort highlights how research-based data can help develop public health policies to provide the highest standards of medical care.”

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 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.”

She added that it is a cost-efficient method of mass testing.

The study is the world’s largest for saliva-based Covid-19 testing in children. The study received approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee at the DHA and has been submitted for peer-review publication.

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