I was speaking to a lady at a party recently and she mentioned her sister had "a bunch of saliva tests" done, and one of them indicated she was at risk for Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system cells attack the saliva- and tear-producing glands, causing them to become inflamed.
Knowing my professional background, she wanted to know how the test worked and was very disappointed and dismissive when I told her I knew nothing about the test and in fact there were very few "saliva tests" run in the typical clinical lab. I also said there were several laboratories that ran unorthodox non-FDA approved tests as part of health evaluations and "wellness testing" and I would be very wary of making life decisions based on such results. I recommended her sister see a doctor and have more traditional testing done.
Later I did some research and was surprised to find that, indeed, the National Institutes of Health is in fact doing research on using disease markers in saliva to possibly diagnose Sjögren's syndrome. Who knew?
I did learn there are laboratories dedicated to testing saliva for a variety of analytes from HIV to tumor markers to drugs and others.
As someone who prides themselves on being always "up" on what's happening in healthcare in general and CLS in particular, I was a little surprised and embarrassed at my lack of knowledge. I strongly advocate that clinical laboratorians remain current and be willing to speak as authoritatively as any other member of healthcare about topical issues. But I strongly believe it is always better to say an honest "I don't know" rather than give misleading information.