Saliva, blood tests comparable for diagnosing hep E, study shows

A test using saliva to diagnose hepatitis E is nearly as effective as a blood test widely used to diagnose the infection, according to a study published in the Journal of Immunological Methods.

Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers developed the saliva test for hepatitis E. The test uses a platform in which antigens are attached to fluorescent beads, allowing them to move more easily though liquid and potentially encounter more antibodies. The current gold standard blood test for hepatitis E uses a common platform known as ELISA, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

Researchers examined 141 patients treated at a clinical diagnostics center. The patients provided both blood and saliva samples. Of these patients, 76 were sent to the center because they showed symptoms of acute viral hepatitis, and 65 were referred for reasons unrelated to acute viral hepatitis.

The blood test showed 50 of the 76 patients showing signs of hepatitis infection had evidence of a past hepatitis E infection and 17 had a recent hepatitis E infection. Additionally, 28 of the 65 patients from the asymptomatic group had evidence of a past hepatitis E infection, while two showed evidence of recent hepatitis E infection.

The saliva test showed nearly the same results, with only two discrepancies in past infection diagnoses and four discrepancies in recent infection diagnoses. The research team also handed out surveys to study participants asking which test they preferred. An overwhelming majority preferred the saliva test.

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