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Open Access Short Report

Measuring DHEA-S in saliva: time of day differences and positive correlations between two different types of collection methods

Courtney A Whetzel* and Laura C Klein

Author Affiliations

Biobehavioral Health Department, 315 East Health and Human Development Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:204  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-204

Published: 20 July 2010

Abstract

Background

The anabolic steroid, dehydroepiandosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), is secreted from the adrenal cortex. It plays a significant role in the body as a precursor to sex steroids as well as a lesser known role in the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) response to stress. DHEA-S can be measured reliably in saliva, making saliva collection a valuable tool for health research because it minimizes the need for invasive sampling procedures (e.g., blood draws). Typical saliva collection methods include the use of plain cotton swab collection devices (e.g., Salivette®) or passive drool. There has been some speculation that the plain saliva cotton collection device may interfere with determination of DHEA-S by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) bringing this saliva collection method into question. Because of the increasing popularity of salivary biomarker research, we sought to determine whether the cotton swab interferes with DHEA-S determination through EIA techniques.

Findings

Fifty-six healthy young adult men and women aged 18-30 years came to the lab in the morning (0800 hrs; 14 men, 14 women) or late afternoon (1600 hrs; 14 men, 14 women) and provided saliva samples via cotton Salivette and passive drool. Passive drool collection was taken first to minimize particle cross contamination from the cotton swab. Samples were assayed for DHEA-S in duplicate using a commercially available kit (DSL, Inc., Webster, TX). DHEA-S levels collected via Salivette and passive drool were positively correlated (r = + 0.83, p < 0.05). Mean DHEA-S levels were not significantly different between collection methods. Salivary DHEA-S levels were significantly higher in males than in females, regardless of saliva collection method (p < 0.05), and morning DHEA-S values were higher than evening levels (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

Results suggest that DHEA-S can be measured accurately using passive drool or cotton Salivette collection methods. Results also suggest that DHEA-S levels change across the day and that future studies need to take this time of day difference into account when measuring DHEA-S.