Differences in saliva ACE2 activity among infected and non-infected adult and pediatric population exposed to SARS-CoV-2

J Infect. 2022 Jul;85(1):86-89. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2022.04.041. Epub 2022 Apr 29.


Background: Variations in the ACE2 activity in saliva could explain the striking differences of susceptibility to infection and risk of severe disease.

Methods: We analyze the activity of ACE2 in saliva in different population groups across a wide age range and disease status during April to June 2020, before SARS-CoV-2 vaccine implementation, and we establish differences between infected people and participants considered resistant (highly exposed healthcare workers and children who cohabited with parents with COVID-19 without isolation and remain IgG negative).

Results: We included 74 adults, of which 47 (64%) were susceptible and 27 (36%) were resistant, and 79 children, of which 41 (52%) were susceptible and 38 (48%) were resistant. Resistant adults have significantly lower ACE2 activity in saliva than susceptible adults and non-significant higher values than susceptible and resistant children. ACE2 activity is similar in the susceptible and resistant pediatric population (p = 0.527). In contrast, we observe an increase in activity as the disease's severity increases among the adult population (mild disease vs. severe disease, 39 vs. 105 FU, p = 0.039; severe disease vs. resistant, 105 vs. 31 FU, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: using an enzymatic test, we show that ACE2 activity in saliva correlates with the susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection and disease severity. Children and adults with low-susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection showed the lowest ACE2 activity. These findings could inform future strategies to identify at-risk individuals.

Keywords: ACE2; SARS-CoV-2; Saliva; Severity; Susceptibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2* / metabolism
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19* / enzymology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Saliva / enzymology


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2