A Review of Salivary Diagnostics and Its Potential Implication in Detection of Covid-19

Cureus. 2020 Apr 17;12(4):e7708. doi: 10.7759/cureus.7708.


Saliva is an exocrine secretion produced from the salivary glands and has numerous functions, such as cleansing and protection of the oral cavity, antimicrobial effects and aids in digestion. Due to the speedy development in the field of salivaomics, saliva is now well accepted as a pool of biological markers that vary from changes in biochemicals, nucleic acids and proteins to the microflora. Saliva has an immense potential as a diagnostic fluid and offers an edge over other biological fluids as its collection method does not require invasive procedure, economical and is useful for monitoring systemic health. Development of sensitive and precise salivary diagnostic tools and the formulation of defined guidelines following meticulous testing will allow salivary diagnostics to be utilised as chair side tests for various oral and systemic diseases in the near future. The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic is the biggest challenge and global health crisis for the world since World War Two. Rapid and accurate diagnosis of Covid-19 is crucial in controlling the outbreak in the community and in hospitals. Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs are the recommended specimen types for Covid-19 diagnostic testing. The collection of these specimen types requires close contact between healthcare workers and patients and poses a risk of transmission of the virus, causes discomfort and may cause bleeding, especially in patients with condition such as thrombocytopenia. Hence, nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swabs are not desirable for sequential monitoring of viral load. Saliva specimens can be obtained easily as the patient is asked to spit into a sterile bottle. The collection of saliva is non-invasive and greatly minimizes the exposure of healthcare workers to Covid-19. Saliva has a high consistency rate of greater than 90% with nasopharyngeal specimens in the detection of respiratory viruses, including coronaviruses. Saliva has also been used in screening respiratory viruses among hospitalized patients without pyrexia or respiratory symptoms. SARS-CoV can be detected in saliva at high titers. Salivary diagnostics is a dynamic field that is being incorporated as part of disease diagnosis, clinical monitoring of systemic health and to make significant clinical decisions for patient care. More research is required to analyze the potential diagnostic of Covid-19 in saliva to develop rapid chair side tests for the detection of Covid-19 and it is also pivotal to improve and develop successful strategies for prevention, especially for dentists and healthcare professionals who are involved in performing aerosol-generating procedures.

Keywords: cost effective; non invasive; novel corona virus; safe; salivary diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Review