Can COVID Test Kits Measure the Oral Microbiome?

Medscape Staff

November 23, 2021

Saliva-based tests may preserve more than the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, research shows.

What to know:

  • Some of the microbes from our mouths end up in our lungs. Studying the oral microbiome of people with and those without COVID-19 can contribute to our understanding of how that environment affects the disease, according to Abigail Armstrong, PhD, the lead author of a new study in NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes.

  • Saliva tests for COVID-19 use preservatives to maintain the genetic material of the virus, but it was previously not known whether these preservatives also preserved the genetic material of bacteria in the saliva.

  • Armstrong and her colleagues collected saliva samples from 22 participants using the testing kit and empty tubes. They then compared the ability to measure bacteria in the two types of saliva collection.

  • They found that the samples collected by the COVID testing kits allowed for accurate measurement of the bacteria in saliva and that the preservatives helped create a stable picture of the microbiome over time.

  • According to the researchers, tracking oral bacteria with COVID test kits could allow for further investigation into the systemic effects of the disease, with the potential to lead to therapies centering on the microbiome.

This is a summary of the article, "COVID-19 Testing Kits Also Can Measure Oral Microbiome in Saliva," published by Rutgers Today on November 22. The full article can be found on

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