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Oral Tests Replacing Need for Needles

Watch your mouth, and not just because Ms. Manners said so. Researchers are developing a number of quick, painless tests that can be administered with a simple saliva sample for ailments that previously required blood be drawn.

Scientists at the McGill University Research Centre have released a study proving the effectiveness of an oral HIV test. Using only saliva as the screening sample, the OraQuick Rapid HIV 1/2 Antibody test was 99% accurate in detecting HIV antibodies in high-risk populations and 97% accurate in low-risk populations, very comparable to current widely used blood tests. Researchers hope that the test – currently only approved for use at healthcare facilities – will eventually allow people to self-test at home (similar to pregnancy tests) as a first option before seeking further professional diagnosis. They anticipate that by avoiding the public stigma of a clinic visit, more people will be willing to get tested – a key component to overcoming this devastating disease.

Leveraging nanotechnology, engineers at Brown University have developed a method to measure glucose levels in saliva. Using microscopic grooves and holes etched into a chip the size of a fingernail, researchers were able to detect how incoming photons were scattered by specific molecules (e.g. glucose), thus allowing them to calculate their density. While not quite as accurate as current blood tests, further tweaks and calibrations should make the test a viable option for most diabetics.

Scientists at Boston IVF have recently unveiled a new saliva-based test for a form of estrogen called estradiol. Women undergoing fertility treatments must constantly track their estrogen levels to determine the dose of the next hormone injection which typically means running daily blood tests. With the new test, women will still have to deliver samples to a lab to be tested, but will avoid the need to give blood. Less pain is always a good thing

Having blood drawn every now and then isn’t too much of a problem for the average person. Unfortunately for some though, it is a painful daily ritual that must be endured to produce the desired results. Luckily these new, needle-free tests are saving time, money and pain – and that’s nothing to spit at.

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