Short Report - Special Collection: COVID-19

‘Self-collected upper respiratory tract swabs for COVID-19 test’: A feasible way to increase overall testing rate and conserve resources in South Africa

Adeloye A. Adeniji
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 12, No 1 | a2445 | DOI: | © 2020 Adeloye A. Adeniji | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 April 2020 | Published: 28 May 2020

About the author(s)

Adeloye A. Adeniji, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Ceres Hospital, Cape Winelands Health District, Department of Health, Ceres, South Africa


Disparity in the testing rate of SARS-CoV-2 amongst different countries and regions is a very big challenge in understanding the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some developed countries have a very high testing rate and subsequently a high number of confirmed cases, less developed countries have a low testing rate and an illusive positivity rate. Collection of the upper respiratory specimen is not often comfortable. The discomfort could be accompanied with epistaxis and headache in some patients. The trained personnel taking the swab is forced to protect self with personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid infections that may result from the patient due to provoked cough, sneezing and spitting. This study looks into an efficient means of increasing the testing rate for COVID 19 without compromising the quality. A literature review was conducted on the different modalities of collecting upper respiratory specimens and assessing the efficacy of samples collected using different methods in terms of the laboratory yield of different pathogens. Self-collection of upper respiratory tract specimen for diagnostic purposes is not new. Studies have demonstrated that trained staff-collected nasal swabs are not in any way superior to self-collected or parent-assisted swabs. The laboratory yield of different specimens is not determined by who took the sample but by the anatomical site from where the specimen was collected. Self collection of the upper respiratory swabs will not only increase the testing rate but also preserve the scarce PPE and reduces health care worker’s COVID 19 infection rate in South Africa.


nasal; nasopharyngeal; oropharyngeal; South Africa; World Health Organization (WHO); National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD); personal protective equipment (PPE); person under investigation (PUI).


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