Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab samples are a valuable resource for clinical research. They are commonly used in healthcare to detect the presence of respiratory viruses such as influenza, rhinovirus, and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. 

Samples collected via nasopharyngeal swab can also be used to assess the effectiveness of vaccines, conduct PCR testing, direct antimicrobial treatment for pneumonia, and collect genetic information or other useful biomarkers for diagnostic testing.

Additionally, a major advantage of using an NP swab is that the sample collection process is simple and minimally invasive, making it suitable for many clinical research studies. 

They are collected by inserting a sterile swab through the nostril into the back of the nasal cavity and then rotating it to collect a sample of mucus secretions from the nasopharynx where a high number of both pathogenic and nonpathogenic bacteria and viruses reside.

The most commonly used swab test method for specimen collection is the “frontal swab,” which involves inserting a swab up to the anterior nares and making an outward and circular motion to collect the sample. This technique is the most comfortable for the patient and can collect enough pathogen-related or genetic information. 

However, the frontal swab may not be as effective in capturing pathogens that are in the back of the nasopharynx which will require a deeper, more uncomfortable insertion technique.

Furthermore, nasopharyngeal swabs have the advantage of being able to be easily shipped and stored with minimal risk of contamination or mishandling.

This added benefit can decrease research costs related to shipping and storage as they do not require any specialized equipment, transport mediums, or strict temperature restrictions.

Despite being easy to administer and less costly than other testing alternatives, nasopharyngeal swabs can be more sensitive in detecting viral diseases compared to oropharyngeal swabs and other methods. 

Their utility has never been so vastly realized as during the COVID-19 pandemic when even at-home nasopharyngeal self-testing became prominent for the detection of SARS COV-2 infection, according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The success of at-home COVID-19 testing is a testament to the testing method’s ease and effectiveness.

Analyzing nasopharyngeal swab specimens is quick, easy, and affordable thanks to fluorescence-based reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay technology. This is the method used to analyze SARS COV-2 RNA in the detection of novel coronavirus. 

Compared to other analysis methods such as culturing and antigen detection, RT-PCR retains reliability and sensitivity.

Regarding the utility of nasopharyngeal swabs, false negative test results can be a concern if not administered correctly and with specificity. 

The administration technique and the individual anatomy of the patient’s nasal passage can make dramatic differences that can affect results of nasopharyngeal swabs. Failing to reach proper swab depth from either technique or due to an anatomical limitation may not allow a swab to obtain enough biomaterial and contribute to false negative results.

Ultimately, utilizing iProcess Global Research for your testing needs can properly facilitate any research endeavor. By launching an in-house CLIA certified research laboratory, iProcess is able to test for a variety of infectious diseases as well as conduct Next Genome Sequencing. Requesting a quote is easy and free.


Performance of nasopharyngeal swab and saliva in detecting Delta and Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants | PMC

Nasal Swab Performance by Collection Timing, Procedure, and Method of Transport for Patients with SARS-CoV-2 | PMC

Performing nasopharyngeal swabs-Guidelines based on an anatomical study | PMC