How saliva testing is done to identify HPV

Researchers at Duke University in the United States have developed a new diagnostic method for oropharyngeal cancer caused by the human papilloma virus, HPV. This new diagnostic method, called an acoustic-fluid isolation test for salivary exosomes, allows the identification of the HPV virus strain responsible for this type of cancer through the collection of saliva.

The researchers found that this method, when compared to the others that already existed, allowed the rapid identification of the virus, representing a rapid start of treatment and greater chances of recovery. According to the researchers, this test is important for the diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer, especially in young people, who usually do not go to the doctor without symptoms.

How this test was developed

Several studies have been carried out with the objective of making the diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer from the detection of the HPV virus in saliva, however these studies have not shown satisfactory results, mainly due to the saliva viscosity and the collection method. For this reason, researchers at Duke University have developed an acoustic-fluidic test, which is based on two biophysical principles, acoustic and microfluidic, and which corresponds to a simple device that works by means of automatic steps, without the need for instruments or trained technicians. In addition, the acoustic fluid test is able to perform the isolation in a short time, in up to 20 minutes, and a large amount of sample is not required.

From the acoustic-fluid test developed, it was possible to isolate the salivary exosome and identify the strain of the HPV virus responsible for the disease, HPV-16, regardless of the saliva viscosity and the method of collection, thus being a more effective method than previous ones. The salivary exosome corresponds to a complex of proteins present in saliva and which, in oropharyngeal cancer, can be rich in biomarkers associated with the HPV-16 virus, making the diagnosis of the disease more sensitive and effective, in addition to improving the prognosis.

The researchers found that through this test it was possible to verify a high yield and a high degree of purity with regard to the isolation of the salivary exosome, which can also be applied to liquid biopsies.

How is the diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer made?

Currently the diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer is made through the evaluation of signs and symptoms presented by the person and the results of tests that must be indicated by the doctor, such as laryngoscopy, endoscopy with biopsy and imaging tests. However, these tests are most often performed only when the person has signs and symptoms related to the disease, which often only happens in more advanced stages.

For this reason, the diagnosis of this type of cancer by means of saliva is a way of making the diagnosis quick, less invasive and more accurate, and there is also greater speed in the beginning of treatment if necessary.