A lollipop may be a sweet diagnostic tool

A lollipop may be a sweet diagnostic tool

If offered a choice at the doctor’s office between having a throat swab or a lollipop, odds are most people would pick the treat. Those long cotton swabs used to collect saliva samples, after all, have few friends.

This might all sound silly. But University of Washington researchers have tested a modified lollipop as they search for a reliable and comfortable way to collect our saliva to find disease-causing agents like the bacterium that causes strep throat.

In a recent study, their experiments with a group of volunteers found the lollipops to be effective. They collected detectable samples of Streptococcus mutans [strep-tuh-KAA-kuhs MOO-tnz], the bacterium that contributes to tooth decay, and Staphylococcus aureus [sta-fuh-luh-KAA-kuhs AW-ree-uhs], which causes several ailments, including pneumonia.

The study indicated that the lollipops are as effective as traditional collection methods like the cotton swab.

And no big surprise: Participants preferred the lollipops.

Now, this isn’t the common lollipop you find in the candy aisle of your local supermarket. The prototype, called CandyCollect, looks more like a spoon, with a concave and grooved saliva-collection area at the top that’s made of isomalt candy.

The candy, of course, is sticky, making it easier to capture the bacteria. And like ordinary treats, the lollipop can generate saliva, which is helpful.

Scientists want to continue to study what other types of bacteria the lollipops can collect.

One problem can be foreseen. To test for bacteria, the doctor or nurse needs to take the lollipop back before you finish it.

And that might not be as easy as taking candy from a baby.


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