The diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) in children remains a significant challenge due to its paucibacillary nature, non-specificity of symptoms and suboptimal sensitivity of available diagnostic methods. In young children particularly, it is difficult to obtain high-quality sputum specimens for testing, with this group the least likely to be diagnosed, while most at risk of severe disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has prioritized research into rapid biomarker-based tests for TB using easily obtainable non-sputum samples, such as saliva. However, the role of biomarkers in saliva for diagnosing TB in children has not been fully explored. In this mini-review, we discuss the value of saliva as a diagnostic specimen in children given its ready availability and non-invasive nature of collection, and review the literature on the use of host-based biomarkers in saliva for diagnosing active pulmonary TB in adults and children. Based on available data from adult studies, we highlight that combinations of cytokines and other proteins show promise in reaching WHO-endorsed target product profiles for new TB triage tests. Given the lack of pediatric research on host biomarkers in saliva and the differing immune response to TB infection between children and adults, we recommend that pediatric studies are now performed to discover and validate salivary host biosignatures for diagnosing pulmonary TB in children. Future directions for pediatric saliva studies are discussed, with suggestions for technologies that can be applied for salivary biomarker discovery and point-of-care test development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health