WASHINGTON, July 20 (UPI) -- Levels of metabolites in saliva may help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's disease, based on a small study presented at a conference.
Researchers caution, however, that it's too early to count on a saliva test because despite the accuracy they saw, the high number of substances in saliva and small number of participants in the study leave many variables to be explored.
The results of the study were presented Sunday at the annual Alzheimer's Association International Conference.
"Saliva is easily obtained, safe and affordable and has promising potential for predicting and tracking cognitive decline, but we're in the very early stages of this work, and much more research is needed," Shraddha Sapkota, a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Alberta in Canada, said in a press release.
For the study, researchers took saliva samples from 22 people with Alzheimer's, 25 people with mild cognitive impairment, and 35 people who were aging normally. Based on clinical diagnoses and cognitive data from the Victoria Longitudinal Study, they found that predominant substances in each group's saliva could be associated with their cognitive abilities.
The results of the study are being called promising by other clinicians while they insist that jumping to conclusions about using a saliva test for the disease has too many variables to count on yet.
"This is a very preliminary study with a small number of subjects, and the results are far from conclusive," Dr. Allison Reiss, head of the Inflammation Section at Winthrop-University Hospital, told CBS News. "There are many gaps in the evidence. It is uncertain whether the strength and consistency of the relationship between these metabolites and Alzheimer's risk will be maintained in a large multicenter study."