Late last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it approved the use of spun synthetic swabs similar to Q-tips for use in testing for COVID-19. The use of the synthetic swabs helps solve one of the biggest logjams in testing patients for COVID-19 - a shortage of long nasal swabs typically used by healthcare workers to collect testing samples.
The finding that the synthetic swabs can be used for COVID-19 testing comes with multiple additional benefits. For one, the swabs, some made of polyester, should be far easier to manufacture. According to the FDA, the plans to produce these new polyester swabs in large quantities will help address the needs for COVID-19 testing. The ready-availability of the synthetic swabs should vastly increase testing, a prerequisite for many state and local governments before stay-at-home orders can be lifted.
Additionally, the clinical investigation upon which the results were based collected samples by circling the front of the nose, rather than sticking the longer nasal swabs into the patient's throat through the nose. Collecting samples with the long nasal swab can be very uncomfortable for patients and frequently causes the patients to sneeze. According to FDA, the type of testing at the front of the nose permits patients to collect the samples at home and is far more comfortable to administer. Thus, the synthetic swabs will limit healthcare workers' exposure to bodily fluids that may transmit COVID-19 after administering the more uncomfortable long nasal swab.
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