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Johns Hopkins Health - Mouth Swabs May Be as Effective as Blood Draws

Winter 2013
Issue No. 19

Mouth Swabs May Be as Effective as Blood Draws

Date: January 17, 2013

mouth swabs

It’s no fun getting stuck with a needle at the doctor’s office, but drawing blood is often the only way to detect illness, test the effectiveness of medicines and evaluate organ function. That may be changing, however, thanks to the research of Johns Hopkins University professor Doug Granger, Ph.D., who has spent the past 20 years looking at how to use a saliva swab as an alternative for blood collection.

“In the early ‘90s, when I was working with children who had to give blood samples,” Granger says, “I found the parents and kids just didn’t want to do it if blood had to be drawn.”

Johns Hopkins researchers began a quest to discover that saliva, with its mix of proteins, hormones, enzymes and DNA, can be used in some instances for disease diagnoses and data collection. And it’s already making things easier for patients. Women receiving in vitro fertilization, for example, now can get their daily estrogen hormone levels tested with saliva as opposed to a blood sample, and a home saliva test kit for detecting HIV was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012.

“The diagnostic world has never thought of saliva as something that could help them very much,” Granger says. “We’ve just scratched the surface of the potential here.”