The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against throat swabs for at-home COVID-19 antigen tests.
The heavily-mutated Omicron variant seems to be spreading at an alarming speed. As cases continue to rise, many individuals have turned to rapid antigen tests for timely detection. According to experts, rapid antigen tests work best when done 3 days after the onset of symptoms, as the viral load is high enough to give an accurate result. Recently the FDA called the at-home tests less sensitive for detecting the Omicron variant. However, to increase the chances of an accurate result, many people are swabbing their throats for the at-home tests. As a result, the FDA has issued a warning regarding self-administered throat swabs for the COVID-19 tests.
Although nasal swabs are the preferred method of sample collection, many tests in the UK and other countries also ask for throat swabs. However, in the U.S., most self-tests require a nasal sample. According to a recent study, nasal swabs are not as effective as saliva swabs for detecting the Omicron variant. The pre-print paper compared both nasal and saliva swab samples for detection of Omicron and Delta variants. While nasal swabs easily detected the Delta variant, saliva samples performed better for the Omicron.
The FDA believes that throat swabs carry too much of a risk to be self-administered. Moreover, there is not enough data to suggest that throat swabs can reduce the risk of a false-negative result. In an interview with CNN, FDA spokesman Jim McKinney called the throat swabs more complicated, with higher harm potential. Therefore, both FDA and CDC advise that a trainer healthcare provider collect such samples.
Source: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)