This diagnostic lollipop collects your saliva

This diagnostic lollipop collects your saliva
The CandyCollect lollipop
The CandyCollect lollipop traps bacteria lickety-split
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The CandyCollect lollipop
The CandyCollect lollipop traps bacteria lickety-split

When testing for infections such as strep throat, saliva sampling is often used as a less invasive alternative to taking throat swabs. Collecting that saliva could soon be easier than ever, by using a lollipop to do the job.

In conventional Covid-19 testing kits (as just one example) users have to repeatedly spit into a funnel, filling a provided collection tube with 2 to 3 milliliters of saliva. It may take up to five minutes for them to do so, which is a long time to sit around performing an activity which most people find to be somewhat disgusting.

Led by Sanitta Thongpang, Ashleigh Theberge and Erwin Berthier, scientists at the University of Washington looked to a less unsavory but still slobbery activity – sucking a lollipop.

The resulting CandyCollect device features a spoon-like end with an open spiral-pattern groove in it, which is covered in a candy coating sweetened with a beet-derived sugar substitute known as isomalt. To use it, patients simply suck on it as they would a regular lollipop.

"The surface of the plastic spiral groove is treated with a chemical so that it collects and binds bacteria from the saliva," Theberge told us. "The saliva is exchanged in and out of the groove as someone sucks on the lollipop, and bacteria accumulate over time. The bacteria can later be eluted off the device [in a lab] and analyzed."

In a test of the technology, the scientists sent CandyCollect devices along with two other conventional saliva sampling kits to 28 volunteers who used them at home, then sent them back for quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis.

It was found that whenever either or both of the conventional kits detected Streptococcus mutans or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in samples, so did the CandyCollect. Additionally, the participants rated the lollipop as the sampling method that they liked best. And what's more, the devices were found to still produce accurate results after being stored at room temperature for a year.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Source: American Chemical Society

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