Small Stanford study indicates COVID-19 ‘self-swab’ tests can be trusted

As localities look to expand COVID-19 testing capabilities and capacity, a new study shows potential for a limited-exposure methodology.

Stanford University School of Medicine announced Friday that its small study on ‘self-swab’ tests showed real benefits. In the study, patients who swabbed their own nasal passages got results as accurate as those collected by healthcare workers.

The study included 30 participants who had previously tested positive for COVID-19.

Researchers hope the ‘self-swab’ method could reduce the potential exposure for medical personnel, while increasing overall COVID-19 testing capacity.

“A sample collection procedure that can safely and easily be performed by the patient in their own car or at home could reduce the exposure of health care workers and also allow many more people to submit samples for testing,” said Yvonne Maldonado, MD, who served as senior author of the study.

In a ‘self-swab’ test, healthcare professionals provide telephone or written instructions to patients on how to perform the test.

At Stanford’s study, 29 of 30 patients received identical results in ‘self-swab’ tests compared to those taken by medical personnel.

Stanford’s study also examined how long after infection symptoms a patient would continue to test positive. Timelines varied significantly, though most received negative results on a test performed more than two weeks after initial symptoms.

“This information would help public health workers craft guidelines as to how long a person with COVID-19 should remain quarantined and when it is likely to be safe to interact again with family members and co-workers,” Maldonado said.