Saliva Test Could Show Risk for Alzheimer’s

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerSeptember 7, 2015

A recent study from the University of Alberta shows consistencies in the saliva of people with Alzheimer’s when compared to people without the disease.

Learn more about this study, its implications on future detection methods and why many researchers are proceeding with caution.

Simple Saliva Test Could Show Risk for Alzheimer’s

A study from Canada suggests that a simple saliva test may be able to detect Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms occur. The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington D.C. earlier this year.

The research team tested the saliva of more than 20 people with Alzheimer’s, 25 people with mild cognitive impairment and 35 people who had normal cognitive ability for their age. Researchers saw consistencies in chemical compounds in the saliva of people with Alzheimer’s when compared to the other groups. Specifically, the team noted a higher level of specific metabolites (molecular byproducts of metabolism) in the saliva, corresponding to a decrease in cognitive abilities.

Their findings suggest that analyzing saliva may be an inexpensive, noninvasive way to determine if the brain is in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s.

Study author Shraddha Sapkota, a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Alberta in Canada said:

“Saliva is easily obtained, safe and affordable, and has promising potential for predicting and tracking cognitive decline, but we’re in the very early stages of this work and much more research is needed.”

Promising Results Yield Need for More Alzheimer’s Research

While results are promising, many researchers are holding their applause until more research is completed.

Maria C. Carrillo, chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association was encouraged by the study saying, “So that’s promising. What that does is it tells a physician in a regular doctor’s office that this person should get more testing.”

Other researchers, like Dr. Allison Reiss, head of the Inflammation Section at Winthrop-University Hospital in New York are more cautious.

“This is a very preliminary study with a small number of subjects and the results are far from conclusive.” She went on to voice her concern about gaps in the evidence, the uncertain link between Alzheimer’s risk and metabolites in saliva as well as the lack of information on confounding factors such as illness, tobacco use and other variables that can impact saliva samples.

Still, other researchers are concerned about how simple the test is, fearing that the convenience of the test may bring problems of its own.

Dr. Paul Wright, chair of Neurology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, said that while the research is still in its infancy, it is very promising. He does worry that such an accessible test “may result in anxiety and depression if there is a false positive result” and calls for larger studies to support the theory.

Do you think a saliva test is a good way to detect Alzheimer’s disease?  Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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