Saliva viral load better correlates with clinical and immunological profiles in children with coronavirus disease 2019

Emerg Microbes Infect. 2021 Dec;10(1):235-241. doi: 10.1080/22221751.2021.1878937.


Background: Pediatric COVID-19 studies exploring the relationships between NPS and saliva viral loads, clinical and immunological profiles are lacking.

Methods: Demographics, immunological profiles, nasopharyngeal swab (NPS), and saliva samples collected on admission, and hospital length of stay (LOS) were assessed in children below 18 years with COVID-19.

Findings: 91 patients were included between March and August 20 20. NPS and saliva viral loads were correlated (r = 0.315, p = 0.01). Symptomatic patients had significantly higher NPS and saliva viral loads than asymptomatic patients. Serial NPS and saliva viral load measurements showed that the log10 NPS (r = -0.532, p < 0.001) and saliva (r = -0.417, p < 0.001) viral loads for all patients were inversely correlated with the days from symptom onset with statistical significance. Patients with cough, sputum, and headache had significantly higher saliva, but not NPS, viral loads. Higher saliva, but not NPS, viral loads were associated with total lymphopenia, CD3 and CD4 lymphopenia (all p < 0.05), and were inversely correlated with total lymphocyte (r = -0.43), CD3 (r = -0.55), CD4 (r = -0.60), CD8 (r = -0.41), B (r = -0.482), and NK (r = -0.416) lymphocyte counts (all p < 0.05).

Interpretation: Saliva viral loads on admission in children correlated better with clinical and immunological profiles than NPS.

Keywords: COVID-19; children; immunological profiles; saliva; viral load.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19 / blood
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Nasopharynx / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology*
  • Saliva / virology*
  • Viral Load*