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DHA approves saliva for COVID testing in kids

Ages 3 to 16 can get the more comfortable test

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The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has adopted saliva testing for children aged 3 to 16 years. The research-driven and evidence-based move comes after a joint study headed by MBRU and DHA highlighted the diagnostic accuracy for COVID-19 saliva testing in children.

The move will ensure a more comfortable method of COVID-19 testing for children and will eliminate the inconvenience of a nasal swab collection, which can be unsettling for children. 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 into sterile containers, and at the same time, the children provided nasal swab specimens collected by trained healthcare 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% sensitivity and 98.5% specificity. The positive and negative predictive values for saliva test were 92.2% and 97.6% respectively. These results show that saliva is a useful diagnostic specimen for COVID-19 screening in children.

Saliva is a cost-efficient method of mass testing. The study, a first in the UAE and the MENA region, is the world’s largest study of saliva for COVID-19 testing in children to date.

The results have been submitted for peer-review publication.