COVID-19: UAE study finds saliva tests as effective as nasal swabs

@DXBMediaOffice/ Twitter

Researchers in the UAE have found that saliva testing is just as effective as nasal swabs in detecting COVID-19.

The findings of a study led by Dubai's Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) showed that saliva can be used for viral detection with 70 per cent sensitivity and 95 per cent specificity.

The research team took saliva and nasal swabs from 401 adults who were present at Al Khawaneej Health Centre for COVID-19 screening. Half of the sample size were asymptomatic.

Researchers from MBRU were joined by teams from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Unilabs, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and the National Reference Laboratory.

Experts say the findings related to the use of saliva could help widen the screening network for COVID-19, simplify community testing, and also 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 and did not require the use of preservative transport to the laboratory. 

The study, which is the first of its kind in the UAE and the wider MENA region, will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Infection and Drug Resistance.

Professor Abiola Senok, lead Investigator of the study and Professor of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, College of Medicine, MBRU, praised the cross-sector collaboration of the study – one of the first research project to receive approval from the Emirates Institutional Review Board for COVID-19 Research.

"Previous studies on the use of saliva for SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR have largely been among COVID-19 in-patients and symptomatic ambulatory patients with limited work in a community-based screening setting. This study has shown good diagnostic accuracy for saliva and the feasibility for its utilisation as a potential specimen of choice in community settings and population-based screening," explained Professor Senok.

More from Local

Coming Up on Dubai Eye

  • Afternoons with Helen Farmer

    2:00pm - 5:00pm

    Every weekday afternoon, Helen Farmer will help you to navigate the highs and lows of life in the UAE. Stay up to date with what’s happening and where to go.

  • Off Script with Chris, Robbie & Sonal

    5:00pm - 7:00pm

    The UAE’s alternative take on news, entertainment and sport. Join Chris, Robbie and Sonal as they cut through the clutter to bring you the news, entertainment and sport stories that actually matter.


On Dubai Eye

  • Meet Gift, female food delivery driver

    Gift came here from Nigeria and failed to find a job, until a pizza company offered her one. She's now one of the very few female delivery drivers in the UAE.


    Farmer's Kitchen is back for 2021!
    With our partners Spinneys, we are going to help you wave goodbye to boring dinners, cluttered fridges, and lumpy leftovers!