Saliva diagnostics - Current views and directions

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2017 Mar;242(5):459-472. doi: 10.1177/1535370216681550. Epub 2016 Dec 8.


In this review, we provide an update on the current and future applications of saliva for diagnostic purposes. There are many advantages of using saliva as a biofluid. Its collection is fast, easy, inexpensive, and non-invasive. In addition, saliva, as a "mirror of the body," can reflect the physiological and pathological state of the body. Therefore, it serves as a diagnostic and monitoring tool in many fields of science such as medicine, dentistry, and pharmacotherapy. Introduced in 2008, the term "Salivaomics" aimed to highlight the rapid development of knowledge about various "omics" constituents of saliva, including: proteome, transcriptome, micro-RNA, metabolome, and microbiome. In the last few years, researchers have developed new technologies and validated a wide range of salivary biomarkers that will soon make the use of saliva a clinical reality. However, a great need still exists for convenient and accurate point-of-care devices that can serve as a non-invasive diagnostic tool. In addition, there is an urgent need to decipher the scientific rationale and mechanisms that convey systemic diseases to saliva. Another promising technology called liquid biopsy enables detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and fragments of tumor DNA in saliva, thus enabling non-invasive early detection of various cancers. The newly developed technology-electric field-induced release and measurement (EFIRM) provides near perfect detection of actionable mutations in lung cancer patients. These recent advances widened the salivary diagnostic approach from the oral cavity to the whole physiological system, and thus point towards a promising future of salivary diagnostics for personalized individual medicine applications including clinical decisions and post-treatment outcome predictions. Impact statement The purpose of this mini-review is to make an update about the present and future applications of saliva as a diagnostic biofluid in many fields of science such as dentistry, medicine and pharmacotherapy. Using saliva as a fluid for diagnostic purposes would be a huge breakthrough for both patients and healthcare providers since saliva collection is easy, non-invasive and inexpensive. We will go through the current main diagnostic applications of saliva, and provide a highlight on the emerging, newly developing technologies and tools for cancer screening, detection and monitoring.

Keywords: Saliva; biomarkers; diagnostics; liquid biopsy; point-of-care; trancriptomics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Humans
  • Mouth Diseases / diagnosis
  • Mouth Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism
  • Saliva / chemistry*


  • Biomarkers
  • DNA, Neoplasm