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Saliva & Survival

December 25, 2015

A simple saliva test of antibody levels may serve as a marker for general health.


5836253352_450d541b8e_z Garry Knight CC BY 2.0 via flickr

(Garry Knight CC BY 2.0, via flickr)


A spit test for health. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Having low levels of antibodies in your saliva can indicate a higher risk of mortality—especially from cancer. This according to University of Birmingham researcher Anna Phillips and her colleagues, reporting in the journal PLOS ONE. Volunteers in their sixties who had low levels of secretory immunoglobulin A, or sIGA, in their saliva were more likely to die over the next nineteen years.

ANNA PHILLIPS (University of Birmingham):

What we think it’s doing is giving a general marker of how healthy your immune system is. So if your sIGA levels are low, then perhaps other types of antibodies are low, and perhaps other types of immune function are low generally, and that might be why we’re seeing this link with mortality.


Phillips says the saliva test might one day be used as a barometer of general health, giving doctors an early heads up if a patient is at a higher risk for cancer and infections down the road. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.