Turn Your Head and Spit: The Diagnostic Potential of Saliva

Urine and blood samples are commonplace in the doctor’s office, but scientists are now turning to more easily obtainable samples for diagnostics. For instance, it is hoped that the volatile organic compounds in breath could be used as biomarkers for cancer.

Saliva, which is the easiest fluid to obtain, may also be diagnostically valuable. A review in the journal Clinical Chemistry discusses some of the possibilities. Saliva tests for HIV infection already exist, and it is possible that saliva could be used to diagnose cardiovascular disease and breast cancer as well.

Though salivary diagnostics currently suffers from disadvantages (such as incomplete knowledge of the presence and/or relevance of salivary biomolecules and a lack of adequately sensitive detection methods), the authors believe that technological advances may eventually make saliva the “first-line diagnostic sample of choice.”