Is pepsin detected in the saliva of patients who experience pharyngeal reflux?

Hippokratia 2007, 11(3):145-149

A Printza, M Speletas, S Triaridis, J Wilson


Objectives: To investigate if pepsin is detected, with an activity assay, in the saliva of patients with a clinical diagnosis of laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) and can therefore be used as a diagnostic marker of laryngopharyngeal reflux.Study design: Pilot, prospective study. Methods: Adult participants with a clinical diagnosis of LPR collected whole saliva samples on regular intervals for a day, and upon experiencing symptoms attributed to LPR. Patients were selected on the basis of presence of severe symptoms and laryngoscopic findings of laryngopharyngeal reflux and symptoms of gastroesopharyngeal reflux. They reported voice disorders, dysphagia, throat clearing, excessive secretions, breathing difficulties, cough, globus sensation and throat pain. Control participants reported the absence of pharyngeal and laryngeal symptoms and of symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. Saliva samples were assayed with fibrinogen on an agarose gel plate. The detection of pepsin was based on the presence of peptic activity which was qualitatively evaluated. Results: The control participants had negative assays. No saliva samples from the LPR patients, collected at regular sampling, tested positive for pepsin. All the samples collected at the presence of symptoms and following regurgitation episodes tested negative for pepsin. Saliva samples pH ranged from 7 to 8. Conclusions: Pepsin was not detected, with an activity assay, in the saliva of patients with a clinical diagnosis of LPR. A concentration method might be more sensitive although saliva and swallowing physiology renders the detection of pepsin in the saliva difficult.