Use of saliva samples for Covid-19 test at govt hospitals soon, says health minister

A health worker puts a test tube into biohazard plastic after collecting a sample for Covid-19 testing in Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, January 18, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A health worker puts a test tube into biohazard plastic after collecting a sample for Covid-19 testing in Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur, January 18, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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PUTRAJAYA, Feb 18 — Deep throat saliva samples will soon be used by some government hospitals for Covid-19 tests, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Adham Baba.

He said that on an evaluation by the Institute for Medical Research (IMR), deep throat saliva has a sensitivity of 96.67 per cent and 100 per cent specificity.

In addition, the sampling method is safe and non-invasive compared to sampling with the “nasopharyngeal” and the “oropharyngeal” swab through the nose and mouth, he said.

“The Health Ministry (MOH) has received approval in principle from IMR to use the saliva sampling method at government hospitals first.

“Sampling of Covid-19 through saliva will also speed up and increases Covid-19 screenings,” he told reporters after receiving 2.7 million low dead-volume syringes, worth RM891,000, from Etiqa Family Takaful Berhad at his ministry here today.

Dr Adham said the sampling method using saliva is self-collected and this is expected to save on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Patients will be asked to remove their own saliva into a specimen cup and the cup will then be sent to the laboratory for testing,” he added.

He said the saliva sampling method is also suitable for the Covid 19 real-time reverse transcriptase-PCR’ (RT-PCR) test.

“Currently, IMR is completing a study on the use of saliva samples for RTK antigen (RTK Ag) tests,” he said, adding that sampling through the nose and mouth is still used to detect Covid-19.

He said the use of saliva samples for the Covid-19 test has been conducted in several countries and it has proven to be cheaper and one of the most consistent sample collection methods. — Bernama

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