Food for thought: Eating before saliva collection and interference with SARS-CoV-2 detection

Matthew M Hernandez, Mariawy Riollano-Cruz, Mary C Boyle, Radhika Banu, Paras Shrestha, Brandon Gray, Liyong Cao, Feng Chen, Huanzhi Shi, Daniel E Paniz-Perez, Paul A Paniz-Perez, Aryan L Rishi, Jacob Dubinsky, Dylan Dubinsky, Owen Dubinsky, Sophie Baine, Lily Baine, Suzanne Arinsburg, Ian Baine, Juan David RamirezCarlos Cordon-Cardo, Emilia Mia Sordillo, Alberto E Paniz-Mondolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Saliva is a promising specimen for the detection of viruses that cause upper respiratory infections including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) due to its cost-effectiveness and noninvasive collection. However, together with intrinsic enzymes and oral microbiota, children's unique dietary habits may introduce substances that interfere with diagnostic testing. To determine whether children's dietary choices impact SARS-CoV-2 molecular detection in saliva, we performed a diagnostic study that simulates testing of real-life specimens provided from healthy children (n = 5) who self-collected saliva at home before and at 0, 20, and 60 min after eating 20 foods they selected. Each of 72 specimens was split into two volumes and spiked with SARS-CoV-2-negative or SARS-CoV-2-positive clinical standards before side-by-side testing by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight (RT-PCR/MALDI-TOF) assay. Detection of internal extraction control and SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids was reduced in replicates of saliva collected at 0 min after eating 11 of 20 foods. Interference resolved at 20 and 60 min after eating all foods except hot dogs in one participant. This represented a significant improvement in the detection of nucleic acids compared to saliva collected at 0 min after eating (p = 0.0005). We demonstrate successful detection of viral nucleic acids in saliva self-collected by children before and after eating a variety of foods. Fasting is not required before saliva collection for SARS-CoV-2 testing by RT-PCR/MALDI-TOF, but waiting for 20 min after eating is sufficient for accurate testing. These findings should be considered for SARS-CoV-2 testing and broader viral diagnostics in saliva specimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2471-2478
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 9 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

Cite this