Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in saliva and characterization of oral symptoms in COVID-19 patients

Lili Chen, Jiajia Zhao, Jinfeng Peng, Xiaoshuang Li, Xuliang Deng, Zhi Geng, Zhenyu Shen, Fengyuan Guo, Qianwen Zhang, Yang Jin, Lin Wang, Songlin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Objectives: In order to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on oral health and possible saliva transmission, we performed RNA-seq profiles analysis from public databases and also a questionnaire survey on oral-related symptoms of COVID-19 patients. Materials and methods: To analyse ACE2 expression in salivary glands, bulk RNA-seq profiles from four public datasets including 31 COVID-19 patients were recruited. Saliva and oropharyngeal swabs were collected. SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids in saliva were detected by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Additionally, a questionnaire survey on various oral symptoms such as dry mouth and amblygeustia was also carried out on COVID-19 patients. Results: ACE2 expression was present at detectable levels in the salivary glands. In addition, of four cases with positive detection of salivary SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acids, three (75%) were critically ill on ventilator support. Furthermore, we observed the two major oral-related symptoms, dry mouth (46.3%) and amblygeustia (47.2%), were manifested by a relatively high proportion of 108 COVID-19 patients who accepted the questionnaire survey. Conclusions: This study confirms the expression of ACE2 in the salivary glands and demonstrates the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 infection of salivary glands. Saliva may be a new source of diagnostic specimens for critically ill patients, since it can be easily collected without any invasive procedures. In addition, dry mouth and amblygeustia can be considered as initial symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12923
JournalCell Proliferation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • amblygeustia
  • COVID-19 patients
  • dry mouth
  • saliva
  • SARS-CoV-2


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