Pearson, B. L., Judge, P., Reeder, D. M. 2008. Effectiveness of saliva collection and enzyme-immunoassay for the quantification of cortisol in socially housed baboons. American Journal of Primatology 70(12), 1145-1151.
Circulating cortisol levels are often used to assess the biological stress response in captive primates. Some methods commonly used to collect blood samples may alter the stress response. As such, noninvasive means to analyze cortisol levels are increasingly being developed. We adapted an existing collection method to simultaneously obtain saliva from multiple socially living hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) and validated an enzyme-immunoassay kit to quantify cortisol within the saliva samples. Over a period of 12 months, saliva samples were regularly collected from approximately half of the 18-member colony, representing younger monkeys who were more willing to participate. The assay met the four criteria typically used to assess the effectiveness of a new analytical technique: parallelism, precision, accuracy, and sensitivity. Cortisol levels were also proportional to those expected given published plasma levels of cortisol in baboons. Further, salivary cortisol levels increased in individuals following significant stress-related events, such as removal from the group, indicating biological validation. The technique provided a reliable and effective means to assess a physiological indicator of stress in a social group without initiating a stress response owing to handling or sedation, and provided a real-time assessment of cortisol levels and reactivity.