HIQA publishes latest evidence on the detection and transmission of COVID-19

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published a number of reviews of academic research and evidence on the detection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and the spread of COVID-19 in children. This evidence will support the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to respond to COVID-19.

A new evidence summary examines the effectiveness of testing saliva and nasal specimens to detect SARS-CoV-2.

HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, Dr Máirín Ryan said: “The current standard for detecting the virus in Ireland comprises a combined nasopharyngeal-oropharyngeal (back of the nose and throat) specimen which is collected by a healthcare professional. We looked at whether saliva or nasal specimens may offer a viable alternative as they are less invasive, so may be more acceptable in terms of comfort, particularly for children. Supervised self-testing, where the person takes the swab themselves, may also be an option with these specimen types. This could reduce the risk of infection for healthcare professionals. The research suggests that, in certain circumstances, saliva or nasal specimens may offer viable alternatives to the traditional test specimens pending validation studies by the National Virus Reference Laboratory and HSE to establish performance in the Irish setting.”

HIQA has also published reviews on the importance of contact versus droplet transmission, and whether airborne transmission contributes to the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Dr Máirín Ryan continued: “Respiratory viruses typically transmit through contact, droplets or aerosols (airborne). Understanding the contribution of different routes of transmission is important to inform infection prevention and control measures. We found limited, low certainty evidence that SARS-CoV-2 may be transmitted via aerosols; however, it is not known if this is restricted to specific contexts, such as in low temperature or enclosed or poorly ventilated environments. While spread appears to be primarily by contact and droplet transmission, the relative importance of aerosol transmission is unclear and is likely context-specific.”

“The evidence published today underlines the importance of adhering to a range of infection control measures, including face coverings, respiratory etiquette, hand washing and maintaining a safe physical distance to reduce the spread of infection and protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

HIQA has also updated its evidence summary on the potential spread of the virus by children.

Dr Máirín Ryan, said: “While transmission from children to adults and other children does occur in households and schools, reported transmission rates for children remain low.”

The reviews and evidence summaries published today are available at https://bit.ly/33L0FvE.


Further information:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement

085 805 5202, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to Editor:

  • HIQA has today published the following documents to inform NPHET’s response to COVID-19:
    • Evidence summary on potential of children to contribute to transmission of SARS-CoV-2
    • Evidence summary for accuracy of molecular and antigen detection tests for the diagnosis of COVID-19 using alternative clinical specimens or sites
    • Evidence summary for airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via aerosols
    • Evidence summary for the relative importance of droplet versus contact transmission to the spread of SARS-CoV-2
    • Evidence summary for face mask use by healthy people in the community