Results of a study by researchers from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in the UAE show that the diagnostic accuracy of saliva for viral detection of COVID-19 has a similar sensitivity to the currently used nasopharyngeal swab.
The research team from MBRU, who were joined by teams from Dubai Health Authority (DHA); Unilabs; Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi; New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD); and the National Reference Laboratory, took saliva and nasal swabs from 401 adults present for COVID-19 screening at Al Khawaneej Health Center, 50 per cent of whom were asymptomatic. The samples were tested for detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus at Unilabs Dubai.
The findings of the study showed that the saliva can be used for viral detection with 70 per cent sensitivity and 95 per cent specificity, proving to be just as effective as the nasal swab.
Use of saliva could exponentially widen the testing network for COVID-19, simplify community testing, and reduce the risk to frontline healthcare professionals. The saliva specimen was self-collected into sterile containers by the patients without requiring the presence of a healthcare professional. It did not require the use of preservative transport media while in transit to the laboratory.
Dr Abiola Senok, Lead Investigator of the study and Professor of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, College of Medicine, MBRU, said: “The scientific community is working hard conducting research on ways to facilitate making COVID-19 testing easier and more readily accessible. Using saliva is a step towards making it easier as samples can be self-collected by patients.
“We can envisage a future where samples can be self-collected even in the patients’ homes and sent to the laboratory. However, for patients to do the test at home themselves, further research and development for point-of-care testing kits using saliva are needed.”
The study and its findings will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Infection and Drug Resistance.