Postgraduate study

Using saliva to transform the diagnosis of asthma

A new test diagnosing asthma from a patient’s saliva has been developed by researchers from the Department of Chemistry.

Using saliva to transform the diagnosis of asthma

Around 5.4 million people currently receive treatment for asthma in the UK, of which 1.1 million are children. The current method of diagnosis involves measuring a person’s airflow lung capacity, which can be inaccurate and can often misrepresent any underlying changes associated with asthma. Other methods such as blood or urine analysis are sometimes used, but often these approaches cause inconvenience and distress, particularly for babies and young children.

The research team, led by Professor Colin Creaser from Loughborough’s Department of Chemistry and Dr Dominick Shaw from the Respiratory Research Unit at Nottingham City Hospital collected saliva from patients with asthma and
healthy individuals without asthma. They then performed liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) analysis on the samples to find ‘metabolic biomarkers’ which indicate the presence of the condition.

By detecting and identifying the amount of ‘metabolic biomarkers’ in the sample, the new test also has the potential to pinpoint the severity and progression of the disease.

Previous research conducted at Loughborough confirmed that metabolic profiling of saliva can detect other health conditions, such as exercise-induced physiological stress. We were very excited to discover the same method can be used to diagnose asthma – a condition affecting millions of people in the UK.

Professor Creaser