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Swabs Collected by Patients or Health Care Workers for SARS-CoV-2 Testing:

The early medical response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States was limited in part by the availability of testing. Health care workers collected a swab sample from the patients’ oropharynx or nasopharynx according to testing guidelines for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This procedure potentially increased the risk of transmission of the virus to health care workers who lacked sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).  In other clinical conditions, it is faster to obtain a tongue, nasal, or mid-turbinate sample than a nasopharyngeal sample, with less potential for the patient to sneeze, cough, or gag. In addition, recent data support the validity of non-nasopharyngeal samples for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. Collection by the patient reduces the high exposure of the health care worker to the virus and preserves limited PPE. This study was powered on the basis of a one-sided test to determine whether the sensitivities of the non-nasopharyngeal swabs collected by the patients themselves were significantly greater than 90%. We calculated that 48 patients with positive nasopharyngeal samples would be needed for the study, assuming a true sensitivity of 98% with 80% power. The adoption of techniques for sampling by patients can reduce PPE use and provide a more comfortable patient experience. Our analysis was cross-sectional, performed in a single geographic region, and limited to single comparisons with the results of nasopharyngeal sampling, which is not a perfect standard test. Despite these limitations, we think that patient collection of samples for SARS-CoV-2 testing from sites other than the nasopharynx is a useful approach during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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