Abu Dhabi: More than 2,000 schoolchildren in Abu Dhabi have been tested for COVID-19 via saliva-based testing, the Abu Dhabi media Office announced on Sunday.
The saliva-based tests have been conducted by the Department of Health’s Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC), in collaboration with Biogenix Labs and education regulator, the Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek). In a social media post, the Media Office said the saliva tests are more comfortable alternatives to the nasal swab for students aged four to 12 years, following DoH approval of PCR by saliva tests as an alternative to the PCR test by nasal swab.
The test was carried out with parental consent for more than 2,000 children as part of Phase 1 in October, and Phase 2 is currently underway, with the saliva tests expanded to a total of 25 schools in Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi Media Office said in its post that saliva is collected in sterile containers that do not require special preservatives, temperature controls or additional containers. The saliva-based testing is effective and accurate, and results are received within 6 to 12 hours of sample collection. The saliva-based test uses the PCR method to detect COVID-19.
Phase 1 of Saliva testing
“The Department of Health (DoH) and the ADPHC are keen to always develop and apply the latest scientific advances in terms of testing and early detection of COVID-19. We launched Phase 1 of saliva testing at the beginning of October at Al Rabeeh School, collecting saliva samples and applying more than five differecnt methods of testing to identify the best type of test for each category of children,” said Dr Omniyat Al Hajeri, community health director at the ADPHC.
“This is an easy test for young children, and for their families as well. In fact, some children even enjoy the process of giving a saliva sample,” she added.
Covid-19 tests for teachers
“For us at Adek, the safety and wellbeing of children is our highest priority. So as part of our school reopening strategy, we conduct COVID-19 tests for all education staff every two weeks, and we have tested all children above the age of 12 prior to their return to the classroom, and randomly thereafter. So this is why we were excited to partner with DoH and Biogenix in the saliva testing pilot,” said Ayesha Al Blooshi, COVID-19 crisis management team lead at the Adek.
“The test takes a sample of the saliva and the sample is transported to the lab, where it is prepared for PCR. It is only one step of preparation, and the whole test takes two to three hours. We’ve done extensive studies, and [the level of test sensitivity] is is 90 per cent. But [the saliva test] is [currently] only approved for children less than 12 years of age,” said Dr Sally Mahmoud, lab director at Biogenix.
Biogenix is owned by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare, the entity which carried out UAE’s Phase III trials for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinopharm.