'Spit' Test May Aid Concussion Diagnosis

Modesto Morganelli
Novembre 21, 2017

For children with concussion, salivary microRNAs can accurately identify the duration of symptoms, according to a study published online November 20 in JAMA Pediatrics.

"Fortunately, the technology required to measure saliva RNA is already employed in medicine; we use it to check patients for upper respiratory viruses in our hospitals and clinics every day", said Steve Hicks, MD, of Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey. "But those guesses aren't evidence-based and aren't always accurate".

The researchers recruited 52 concussion patients between the ages of 7 and 21 for the study. Even more, the five saliva biomarkers were more accurate than the Standardized Concussion Assessment Tool 3, a questionnaire now used to help make a diagnosis of mild traumatic brain injury. The researchers also asked the patients' parents for their observations about their children's symptoms.

MicroRNA expression was measured in saliva spit into a cup by the patients, who had been injured mostly in sports or vehicle accidents, when they arrived at Penn State Hershey Medical Center for an evaluation.

Researchers there found tiny molecules in saliva were able to predict whether concussion symptoms would last more than a month with about 85% accuracy. Participants were split into the prolonged and acute symptom groups (30 and 22, respectively). "In comparison, using the SCAT-3 report of symptoms alone is about 64 percent accurate. In this pilot study, these molecular signatures are outperforming survey tools".

Still, "the findings are promising, representing potential biomarkers for the diagnosis, recovery, and prognostic assessment of a sport-related concussion". For example, if a doctor knew a patient was going to have prolonged symptoms, they might put the patient on medicine right away instead of waiting to see if symptoms clear up on their own.

Hicks says he hopes the test can come to market within the next one or two years after more research is done.

"The ultimate goal is to be able to objectively identify that a concussion has happened and then predict how long the symptoms will go on for", Hicks said. "This could reduce parental anxiety and improve care by providing a tool for concussion management". Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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