Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a technique to make saliva collection for diagnostic purposes a little less disgusting and a little more fun and pleasant. Saliva collection often acts as a less invasive alternative than throat swabs in the detection of a variety of pathogens, such as that causing streptococcal soar throat (strep throat). However, manually collecting the right amount of saliva is pretty gross. In an effort to streamline this process, and make it more appealing to both adults and children, these researchers have developed a new solution. The CandyCollect is a specially designed lollipop that collects saliva as someone sucks it. It contains a series of grooves that collect saliva, and bacteria within the saliva tend to adhere to the channel walls, for later collection and analysis.
Pathogenic illnesses in the mouth and throat may require some sample collection and analysis before clinicians can decide on the best course of treatment. Typically, such samples are analyzed using techniques such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction. This could be used to detect which bacteria are causing an infection, for example. Throat swabs are one option to collect such samples, but they can induce gagging and are a little invasive, particularly for nervous patients such as children.
Saliva collection can work as a non-invasive alternative, but this approach requires a surprising amount of saliva to work, which is a little gross to collect. It can also be difficult for children to perform this procedure. In an effort to develop an effective and fun alternative, these researchers have turned to candy. CandyCollect is an isomalt candy lollipop that contains specially designed grooves which collect saliva passively as someone enjoys the lolly. A polystyrene handle holds the flat lollipop head,
So far, the researchers have distributed the lollipops, along with conventional saliva sampling kits, to 28 adult volunteers who tried them out, filled out a survey and then returned the saliva samples. The researchers were able to detect Streptococcus mutans and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in the lollipop saliva samples using qPCR, highlighting their effectiveness in a real-world situation.
The lollipops were also preferred by the test subjects compared with standard saliva sampling kits, describing the lollipops as the “most sanitary” and “least disgusting.” The candy constructs are also shelf-stable for at least a year.
Study (and image source) in journal Analytical Chemistry: At-Home Saliva Sampling in Healthy Adults Using CandyCollect, a Lollipop-Inspired Device