Spit vs Swab? New studies support ‘saliva tests’ for COVID-19 screening

A person’s saliva can now be used as an alternative to the nasopharyngeal swab for COVID-19 screening.

The 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 and did not require the use of preservative transport media while in transit to the laboratory.

The study regarding the same has been completed by the researchers from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in terms of a significant contribution towards the fight against Covid-19.

The study, a first in the UAE and the MENA region, was a close collaborative effort between the public and private sectors and academia. The research team from MBRU 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.

The team took saliva and nasal swabs from 401 adults presenting for Covid-19 screening at Al Khawaneej Health Center, 50 percent of whom were asymptomatic. The samples were tested for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at Unilabs Dubai. The findings of the study showed that the saliva can be used for viral detection with 70% sensitivity and 95% specificity, proving to be just as effective as the nasal swab.

The study and its findings will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Infection and Drug Resistance.