Cotton swabs are among the most commonly used devices for collecting saliva, but various studies have reported that their use impacts the results of salivary cortisol assays. These studies, however, estimated this impact by comparing the average of the concentration and/or scatter plots. In the present study, we estimated the impact of cotton swabs on the results of salivary cortisol enzyme immunoassay (EIA) by Bland-Altman plot. Eight healthy males (aged 20-23 years) provided four saliva samples on different days to yield a total of 32 samples. Saliva samples were collected directly in plastic tubes using plastic straws and then pipetted onto cotton swabs (cotton saliva collection) and into clear sterile tubes (passive saliva collection). There was a lower correlation between cotton and passive saliva collection. Individually, four subjects showed a negative correlation between passive and cotton saliva collection. A Bland-Altman plot indicated that cotton swabs causes a proportional bias on the EIA assay result. Our findings indicate a considerable effect of using cotton swabs for saliva collection, and subject-specific variability in the impact. A Bland-Altman plot further suggests possible reasons for this effect.
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