Saliva in the Diagnosis of COVID-19: A Review and New Research Directions

J Dent Res. 2020 Dec;99(13):1435-1443. doi: 10.1177/0022034520960070. Epub 2020 Sep 16.


This review presents literature that highlights saliva's utility as a biofluid in the diagnosis and monitoring of COVID-19. A systematic search was performed in 5 electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, LILACS, Scopus, and Web of Science). Studies were eligible for inclusion if they assessed the potential diagnostic value and/or other discriminatory properties of biological markers in the saliva of patients with COVID-19. As of July 22, 2020, a total of 28 studies have investigated the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in saliva. Several of those studies confirmed reliable detection of SARS-CoV-2 in the saliva of patients with COVID-19. Saliva offered sensitivity and specificity for SARS-CoV-2 detection comparable to that of the current standard of nasopharyngeal and throat swabs. However, the utility of saliva in diagnosing COVID-19 infection remains understudied. Clinical studies with larger patient populations that measure recordings at different stages during the disease are still necessary to confirm the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnosis with saliva. Nevertheless, the utility of saliva as a diagnostic tool opens the possibility of using rapid and less invasive diagnostic strategies by targeting bioanalytes rather than the pathogen.

Keywords: COVID-19 diagnostic testing; biomarkers; coronavirus; coronavirus infections; saliva diagnosis; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • Humans
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Saliva / virology*


  • RNA, Viral