New home saliva test developed for gingivitis detection

A new home saliva test which can warn consumers about early risks of tooth decay from diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, has been developed by engineers from the University of Cincinnati (UC). The device uses antibodies that react to the endotoxins found in the bacteria responsible for gingivitis.

The new device was developed by research professor Andrew Steckl from the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science and UC senior research associate Daewoo Han, in collaboration with Sancai Xie a principal scientist at Procter & Gamble Co. They described their results in a paper first published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Sensors and Diagnostics on 21 Aug.

According to the paper, the test demonstrates an antibody-based sandwich lateral flow assay (LFA) assay to detect P. gingivalis lipopolysaccharides (LPS), a major biomarker for oral health. It adds that detection in human saliva was evaluated in combination with potato starch and syringe filtering to reduce the interference from biomolecules in saliva, especially for α-amylase enzymes. The LFA immunoassay reactions with saliva samples resulted in comparable results to that of water-based samples.

The device is currently undergoing further developments which aims to improve assay sensitivity using saliva samples. The development of aptamer-based sandwich LFA will also be investigated for improved flexibility and performance as the sensitivity of the antibody-based detection is significantly affected by the performance of the conjugate antibody. Also, the ability to detect multiple LPS molecules related to diseases for more accurate diagnostics of patients’ health will also be explored.

Gingivitis detection
Senior research associate Daewoo Han (left) and research professor Andrew Steckl with the new at-home test for gingivitis (Image: Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand)

“It’s been quite the challenge to get to the point where we can detect this toxin created by the bacteria responsible for gingivitis,” said Steckl. “There are good reasons to use saliva. It is relatively plentiful and easy to obtain through noninvasive methods. And saliva has a lot of important elements that can act as indicators of your health.”

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease where severe cases are estimated to affect around 19% of the global adult population, according to the World Health Organisation.

Steckl added that he sees a lot of opportunity for new consumer products. His research team has been exploring biosensing for various applications. They studied stress hormones in sweat in collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

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