Saliva the key to precision medicine?

Research from Sidra Medicine has developed a saliva-based test, which they believe could a “a stepping stone to precision medicine.” Part of the Qatar Foundation (QF), Sidra Medicine is a high-tech facility, focussed on world-class patient care, scientific expertise and education.


In addition to enzymes which help start the digestion of food, saliva contains RNA, DNA, proteins, electrolytes, metabolites, and microbiota. Changes in these components can indicate aspects of an individual’s health status. The salivary microbiome not only differs from disease to disease, but it also changes as a result of” individual differences in genetics, diet and environmental factors,” explained Dr Souhaila al-Khodor, director of the Maternal and Child Health Programme in the Research Department at Sidra Medicine.

Diagnostic tools are a vital element of the ongoing shift towards precision medicine. Diagnostic tools based on saliva can help to identify and measure biomarkers with the potential to enable individualised diagnosis and treatment. The variations that exist with saliva have not yet been fully explored at a population level. Those studies which do exists, do not represent the Arab or Qatari populations, however. Addressing this gap, the research at Sidra, with the first-ever characterisation of the Qatari salivary microbiome, will open the door to further studies and potential therapeutic opportunities.

“Saliva is one of the most ideal diagnostic tools,” says Dr al-Khodor. “It is inexpensive, noninvasive, and easy to handle. More importantly, minimal patient discomfort makes it a favourable choice over other bodily fluids. Given their speed and cost-effectiveness, salivary-based diagnostic techniques can potentially allow screening of an entire population for a specific disease in a timely fashion.”

Ultimately, salivary tests could allow at-home diagnosis of multiple diseases, facilitate real-time health monitoring, and lead to personalized preventative medicine.