Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting
Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting
Perspective from Anthony P. Kontos, PhD
May 09, 2017
2 min read

Saliva biomarkers may help predict concussion symptom duration in children

Perspective from Anthony P. Kontos, PhD
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Analyzing saliva for changes in the micro-ribonucleic acid levels served as a prognostic indicator of symptom duration among children following a concussion, according to research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.

Researchers noted that this form of testing can more correctly assess potential lingering effects more successfully than the standard Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT-3).

Stephen D. Hicks
Steven Hicks

“Most clinicians feel comfortable making a clinical diagnosis of concussion, but our ability to predict how long concussion symptoms will last is limited by a lack of objective measures,” Steven Hicks, MD, PhD, FAAP, from the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “Our research group has identified a set of small molecules called microRNAs that are altered in both spinal fluid and saliva after a traumatic brain injury.”

To evaluate the efficacy of testing microRNA in saliva to predict possible symptoms in comparison to the SCAT-3, researchers documented the injury mechanism and demographic features of 50 children between 7 and 18 years who acquired a mild traumatic brain injury. Both children and their parents completed SCAT-3 surveys within 14 days of the injury and 4 weeks after sustaining the concussion.

During enrollment, children also provided expectorated saliva to be used for high-throughput RNA sequencing to examine microRNA content. Prolonged concussion symptoms were classified in children with scores of 5 or greater on the SCAT-3 at 4 weeks.

The researchers observed no difference in injury mechanisms between those within the acute and prolonged concussion groups. Those who had prolonged symptoms (29 children) reported higher scores related to headache and frequent fatigue measures in the SCAT-3, whereas their parents had concerns about their impaired concentration.

Eleven microRNAs were detected that demonstrated slight differences between both groups, and a logistic regression analysis that included six microRNAs established an area under the curve of 0.878 with 10-fold cross-validation (90% sensitivity; 87% specificity) in relation to the identification of those with prolonged symptoms. When the SCAT-3 was assessed using the same regression model, an area under the curve was noted at 0.662.

“This study shows we may be able to use salivary microRNA levels to predict how long it will take a patient to recover from a concussion,” Hicks said in an interview. “In this small pilot study, microRNA levels were more accurate at predicting concussion duration than standard survey measures.” by Katherine Bortz.


Adesman A, et al. “Peripheral microRNA patterns predict prolonged concussion symptoms in pediatric patients.” Presented at: The Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; May 6-9, 2017; San Francisco, CA.

Disclosure: This work is sponsored and funded in part by Motion Intelligence, Inc., a biotech company for whom Dr. Hicks serves as a consultant.