How do I collect a saliva sample?

When collecting saliva specimens, utilize a polypropylene container with a wide opening such as a 50 mL centrifuge tube, specimen urine cup, or assembled funnel and collection tube. The collection container should be sterile, leak-proof, and, when possible, DNAse and RNAse-free. Do not use any sampling containers that contain other extraction or stabilizing solutions. 

Use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including disposable gloves, eye protection gear, a face mask, and lab coat during saliva specimen handling to minimize the risk of exposure to infectious viruses or unknown bacteria. 

Subjects should avoid eating, drinking, smoking, chewing gum, brushing teeth, or rinsing with mouthwash at least 30 minutes prior to sampling. Instruct the subject to wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, and dry hands before collecting saliva. Improper saliva specimen collection may lead to inconclusive results.

To collect a saliva specimen:

  1. Uncap the sterile specimen collection container and hand it to the subject. The subject should spit/drool at least 0.5 – 1 mL of saliva into the specimen container and avoid touching the inside of the container or contaminating the outer surface of the container with saliva. 
  2. Immediately cap the container after specimen collection is complete and perform a visual analysis.The saliva specimen should be homogeneously cloudy. Discard the specimen if it contains large solid particles or blood.

Saliva specimens can generally be stored at  room temperature for up to 16 hours, 2 – 8 ˚C for up to 72 hours after collection and at -70 ˚C or below for long term storage. 

Adhere to CDC Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens for COVID-19 prior to specimen processing. For the packaging and transport of specimens, consult the current version of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Dangerous Goods Regulation and follow shipping regulations for UN 3373 Biological Substance, Category B.

Do not reuse sample collection containers. Handle all containers as potentially hazardous waste and dispose of in accordance with local regulatory guidelines.