Swab Collection Methods for COVID-19 Testing

As we learn more about the COVID-19 (SARS-Cov-2) virus, the FDA continues to update it’s standards on collection methods. Testing laboratories have also faced issues with finding the swabs needed for testing (though not our customers). So what are the current options?

You may have heard about uncomfortable experiences with the swab needing to go very far back in the nasal passage. Researching may lead you to confusing terms like nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal, and it may feel like you’re back in Biology 101 with no textbook.

If you need to be tested for COVID-19, or any of the other strains of coronavirus, you may be curious about how the sample collection works, what options there are, and what the most comfortable options are. Don’t worry. DTPM is here to break down the lingo and give an overview of the options you have when it’s time for sample collection.

Swab Names – Explained

Covid swab definitions - medical referenceNasopharyngeal Definition

A nasopharyngeal swab is one of the swabs used in COVID-19 testing and is designed to reach far back to your nasopharynx, an anatomical term that you may not have heard before. Your nasopharynx is part of the musculature that makes up your throat and nasal cavities, the pharynx. More specifically, the nasopharynx is behind your nose but above the soft palate of your mouth.

When used to collect a sample for a coronavirus test, a nasopharyngeal swab is inserted through the nasal passage all the way to the back of your throat. The process is fast, but may cause some minimal discomfort.

Oropharyngeal Definition

An orophayngeal swab is designed to reach your oropharynx, another part of the pharynx. Your ororpharynx is located below your nasopharynx; at the back of your throat and below the nasal passage openings.

When used to collect samples for COVID-19 or other coronaivurses, an orophayngeal swab is inserted via the mouth to the back of the throat. Some people find this a more comfortable and preferred method than the nasopharyngeal swab alternative.

Benefits of Different Collection Methods

So if you are looking to get a reliable and accurate test for coronavirus, which method should you use? There are a variety of factors to take into consideration.

Transport Media

After the sample is collected, it’s placed in a tube which contains a transport media. MTM swabs use a molecular transport medium and are specifically designed for molecular testing, which is what a COVID-19 test is. VTM swabs use a viral transport medium and offer a shorter shelf life than MTM swabs. MTM swabs also render the virus inactive once placed in the transport medium. Read more about the benefits and differences of MTM and VTM swabs on our blog post.

Test Assay Requirements

Depending on which COVID-19 testing assay used, there may be requirements on how the sample can be collected. The FDA issued an emergency declaration for the development of assays to test for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) so there are options out there.

Be sure to check with the laboratory completing the test if you are unsure of any limitations or concerns about false results. You can trust the DTPM COVID-19 Assay that has been approved by the FDA. It allows for a variety of collection methods with no impact on the quality of the results.

Collection Location

Different types of swabs are designed for different collection methods and locations. The DTPM COVID-19 assay can use samples collected with the following swab types, in accordance with the current FDA EUA:

  • Nasopharyngeal – slides very far to the back of your nasal/throat passage
  • Oropharyngeal – swabs the tonsil region of your mouth
  • Nasal – extended swabbing at the entrance of your nose
  • Mid-Tubinate – stops at nostril depth, deeper than a nasal swab

Science Daily says that “Self-collected saliva and deep nasal swabs collected by healthcare providers are equally effective for detecting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study conducted by ARUP Laboratories and University of Utah (U of U) Health.”

Does the sample need to be collected so deep?

Not with the DTPM COVID-19 Assay that Tide Labs utilizes! The much more comfortable nasal and oropharyngeal methods are as reliable as the deeper nasopharyngeal swab, and do not require the extensive PPE either. Contact us today about COVID-19 Testing.