Saliva and other oral substances are now emerging as the bodily fluids of choice for physicians, dentists and drug testers, researchers said today at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Saliva and other oral fluids (from the cheek and gum surfaces) contain many of the same proteins and other molecules that blood and urine do. Some of these molecules can reveal the presence of diseases such as cancer. Others can be used to predict the number of cavities in a person's teeth and perhaps even where in the mouth the cavities will develop, according to new research.
Saliva is also relatively easy to collect, since spitting into a cup doesn't require needles and can be done while a doctor or drug tester watches. As the panelists explained, researchers are making progress in both developing the technology for testing saliva and identifying the molecules, or "biomarkers," that reveal disease.
Saliva testing for drugs of abuse is also a growing trend in the workplace. The United States Department of Health and Human Services is currently developing guidelines for adopting oral fluid testing, according to speaker Edward Cone of ConeChem Research, LLC.
"Saliva has not really been used in the mainstream. As a scientific community, it's time to bring oral fluid testing to the front line and look at what value it will bring," said David Wong of the University of California, Los Angeles Jonsson Cancer Center and School of Dentistry.
One of the emerging uses for oral fluid testing is in dental health. Based on information from someone's saliva, Paul Denny of the University of Southern California said he and his colleagues can determine how vulnerable the patient is to cavities.
The test detects saliva proteins that have special sugars that bind to t