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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Print: 2151-805X
ISSN Online: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2012004857
pages 137-146

Advances in Oral Fluid Testing: Proposed Property Rights, Violation of Privacy, and Revising Informed Consent

Anthony Vernillo
Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology & Medicine, and College of Dentistry, Center for Bioethics, New York University, New York, NY
Sudeshni Naidoo
Department of Community Oral Health, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Paul Root Wolpe
Center for Ethics, Emory University; Atlanta, GA


Biotechnological advances in rapid diagnostic testing of oral fluids such as saliva or oral transudate have led to the identification of a wide array of pathogens, enzymes, gene products and mutations, and other biomarkers. A new paradigm related to property rights likely will emerge with more information obtained from testing an individual patient or research participant; oral fluids may be a counterpart to blood. Traditionally, blood has been subjected to a large variety of diagnostic testing for both medical and legal purposes. Should oral fluid, like blood, also be granted comparable legal and ethical protections? Concerns about violation of privacy, including genetic discrimination, have emerged with rapid testing of saliva. The management of salivary biospecimens must include considerations of property rights and financial compensation; the right to privacy; and re-evaluation of informed consent. The challenges of obtaining informed consent for rapid oral diagnostic testing from culturally diverse populations must be addressed to promote overall public health and research. Testing must also be affordable and accessible. Strategies that incorporate rapid oral diagnostic testing into oral health care should reshape and align dentistry with medicine, promote public health, and advance research investigations.