Sensitive Serology Measurements in the Saliva of Individuals with COVID-19 Symptoms Using a Multiplexed Immunoassay

J Appl Lab Med. 2022 Oct 29;7(6):1354-1365. doi: 10.1093/jalm/jfac073.


Background: There are numerous benefits to performing salivary serology measurements for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative pathogen for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Here, we used a sensitive multiplex serology assay to quantitate salivary IgG against 4 SARS-CoV-2 antigens: nucleocapsid, receptor-binding domain, spike, and N-terminal domain.

Methods: We used single samples from 90 individuals with COVID-19 diagnosis collected at 0 to 42 days postsymptom onset (PSO) and from 15 uninfected control subjects. The infected individuals were segmented in 4 groups (0-7 days, 8-14 days, 15-21 days, and >21 days) based on days PSO, and values were compared to controls.

Results: Compared to controls, infected individuals showed higher levels of antibodies against all antigens starting from 8 days PSO. When applying cut-offs with at least 93.3% specificity at every time interval segment, nucleocapsid protein serology had the best sensitivity at 0 to 7 days PSO (60% sensitivity [35.75% to 80.18%], ROC area under the curve [AUC] = 0.73, P = 0.034). Receptor-binding domain serology had the best sensitivity at 8 to 14 days PSO (83.33% sensitivity [66.44%-92.66%], ROC AUC = 0.90, P < 0.0001), and all assays except for N-terminal domain had 92% sensitivity (75.03%-98.58%) at >14 days PSO.

Conclusions: This study shows that our multiplexed immunoassay can distinguish infected from uninfected individuals and reliably (93.3% specificity) detect seroconversion (in 60% of infected individuals) as early as the first week PSO, using easy-to-collect saliva samples.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Saliva
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus


  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2