Doctors in the UAE said that the saliva-based Covid-19 test has proven accurate and is conducted at various institutions, including the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
"Nasopharyngeal swabs can be an unsettling procedure for young children. Saliva testing is approved for school children by the authorities to encourage regular screening," said Dr Seema Oomen, head of microbiology & Covid lab at VPS Healthcare.
Various studies across the world have factored in these challenges, and saliva testing has been found to be a good option.
"The results showed 87.7% sensitivity and 98.5% specificity with a positive and negative predictive value at 92.2% and 97.6% respectively, thus showing that saliva can be an acceptable alternative," added Dr Oomen.
Based on effectiveness, doctors pointed out that the saliva-based test is used only in children up to 17-years of age and may not be acceptable for travel.
"One of the major airline groups in the UAE confirmed that nasopharyngeal swab specimen is required, and some rejections have been reported for the saliva-based test. It may change in future."
Dr Oomen added that samples of saliva collected at home is not acceptable for travel. "This could vary from country to country and depends on the regulatory authorities."
Doctors highlighted that saliva samples might be affected if there has been food or beverage intake just before collection.
"This leads to an invalid result. Candidates must rinse their mouths adequately before collection. Other challenges are diluting viral load," Dr Oomen said.
Healthcare professionals advise labs to use kits that support saliva testing.
"These testing kits and collection kits should also be validated in-house in each laboratory with an adequate sample size against the saliva collection kits."