The salivary gland system has three paired major glands with numerous minor glands spread through the aerodigestive tract. A team of researchers, led by Dr Valstar in the Netherlands, have reported that they have discovered a new pair of salivary glands in the posterior nasopharynx. Their research has been published in the journal Radiotherapy & Oncology.1

Visualisation of salivary glands can be achieved with positive emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) with radio-labelled ligands for the prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). Surprisingly, the researchers observed structures in the nasopharynx demonstrating ligand uptake similar to salivary glands during patient PSMA PET/CT scans. These structures did not fit any known previous anatomical descriptions. The researchers investigated this by evaluating 100 consecutively scanned prostate/para-urethral cancer patients. All patients had the same PSMA-positive area bilaterally in their posterior nasopharynx. Moreover, two human cadaver dissections were performed and the area of interest analysed through histology. Microscopic examination confirmed mucous gland tissue and draining ducts. As these glands are situated over the torus tubarius, they were named 'tubarial glands'.

It remains to be seen if the glands are classified as minor or major salivary glands but the discovery of a new body structure in 2020 certainly sparks scientific interest.