Detecting diabetes without a needle: the spit factor

A painless and non-invasive method of detecting diabetes, utilising saliva, was revealed last week at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) 18th Annual Meeting & Clinical Congress.

While searching for biomarkers that may indicate diabetes, doctors examined the saliva of 40 different patients. Through salivary analysis, they managed to devise a new, "non-invasive" method for detecting diabetes that foregoes the uncomfortable prick of a needle -- patients need only to spit into a cup. The spit test could be performed for little cost in a doctor's office or at a patient's home.

"Our goal was to characterise proteins in human saliva that may indicate prediabetes and type-2," said Srinivasa Nagalla, MD. "Analysis of these proteins allowed us to develop this new method for screening, detecting and monitoring the diabetic state."

Through the course of his team's research, Nagalla estimates that they identified a total of 487 unique proteins, approximately a third of which had not been previously reported in human saliva.

Of those, 65 proteins indicated a difference between patients with normal blood glucose levels and those with diabetes.

"This comprehensive protein analysis provides the first global view of potential mechanisms perturbed in diabetic saliva and their utility in detection and monitoring of diabetes," Dr. Nagalla said.

The research, although having great potential for helping diabetic patients, experts feel that it is too early to say as to how accurate the readings will be since even the most used method of checking currently with the finger-stick blood glucose meters to check blood glucose levels, show a 10 per cent -15 per cent discrepancy in readings.