BACKGROUND: Perinatal asphyxia (PA) is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in newborns: its prognosis depends both on the severity of the asphyxia and on the immediate resuscitation to restore oxygen supply and blood circulation. Therefore, we investigated whether measurement of S100B, a consolidated marker of brain injury, in salivary fluid of PA newborns may constitute a useful tool for the early detection of asphyxia-related brain injury. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study in 292 full-term newborns admitted to our NICUs, of whom 48 suffered PA and 244 healthy controls admitted at our NICUs. Saliva S100B levels measurement longitudinally after birth; routine laboratory variables, neurological patterns, cerebral ultrasound and, magnetic resonance imaging were performed. The primary end-point was the presence of neurological abnormalities at 12-months after birth. RESULTS: S100B salivary levels were significantly (P<0.001) higher in newborns with PA than in normal infants. When asphyxiated infants were subdivided according to a good (Group A; n = 15) or poor (Group B; n = 33) neurological outcome at 12-months, S100B was significantly higher at all monitoring time-points in Group B than in Group A or controls (P<0.001, for all). A cut-off >3.25 MoM S100B achieved a sensitivity of 100% (CI5-95%: 89.3%-100%) and a specificity of 100% (CI5-95%: 98.6%-100%) as a single marker for predicting the occurrence of abnormal neurological outcome (area under the ROC curve: 1.000; CI5-95%: 0.987-1.0). CONCLUSIONS: S100B protein measurement in saliva, soon after birth, is a useful tool to identify which asphyxiated infants are at risk of neurological sequelae.