How the UAE COVID-19 saliva test works

Following peer-reviewed published research, the emirate of Dubai has introduced a more convenient test to detect the coronavirus in children.
By Rachel McArthur
09:54 am
COVID-19, Unilabs UAE, Dubai Health Authority

Earlier this week, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in the United Arab Emirates announced it is now offering a simple saliva test that can detect COVID-19 for children between the ages of 3-16 years. The test – which costs AED 150 (€34) – is available across all DHA facilities and DHA-run COVID-19 screening centres in the emirate.

It is hoped that the new form of testing will eliminate discomfort commonly experienced with the traditional nasal swab that’s arguably more suitable for adults than for children.

Results from the saliva test take the same time as the nasal swab, within approximately 24-48 hours.


In October, researchers from institutes including the Mohammed Bin Rashid University (MBRU), Unilabs UAE, and the DHA published a paper in Infection and Drug Resistance entitled 'Saliva as an Alternative Specimen for Molecular COVID-19 Testing in Community Settings and Population-Based Screening'. The group concluded that the saliva test offered “good diagnostic accuracy” adding that “saliva represents a potential specimen of choice in community settings and population-based screening, especially as a non-invasive alternative for children and the elderly.”

Hanan Al Suwaidi, lead investigator of the study and assistant professor of family medicine at the College of Medicine at MBRU, said: “This study is an example of translational research that can impact policy and practice 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.”

According to the study, “viral RNA was extracted from 300 µL of each sample using the Chemagic viral RNA extraction kit on the automated Chemagic 360 Nucleic Acid Extractor”, while SARS-CoV-2 detection was carried out “using the NeoPlex COVID-19 kit for the RT-PCR amplification of the SARS-CoV-2 RdRp and N gene targets.”

It continued: “The results were interpreted in accordance with the UAE Federal guidelines, which are in line with manufacturer guidelines, and a ‘detected’ result for SARS-CoV-2 was rendered if two gene targets or only the RdRp gene target was amplified.”


Dr Farida Al Khaja, CEO of DHA’s Clinical Support Services and Nursing Sector told Gulf News: “For children, in particular, it is highly beneficial as it eliminates the discomfort associated with a nasal swab test, which means children will be at ease and find the test comfortable.

“This joint effort highlights how research-based data can help develop public health policies to provide the highest-standards of medical care to the population.”


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