The FDA announced today that spun synthetic swabs — with a design similar to Q-tips — could be used to collect samples from patients suspected of having COVID-19. Patients could even take the samples themselves from the front of the nose, the agency said.
The solution could help solve multiple problems:
- The nationwide shortage of long nasal swabs typically by healthcare workers used for COVID-19 sample collection.
- Danger to healthcare workers from exposure to COVID-19 patients.
- Calls from several governors, business leaders and members of Congress to vastly increase testing before businesses can reopen and social distancing can be reduced.
- The level of discomfort that patients who have been tested using those traditional swabs have reported, including President Donald Trump. “Not something I’d want to do every day,” Trump said after being tested March 13 for the first time. (He was tested again April 2.) “Nothing pleasant about it.”
The FDA said it collaborated with UnitedHealth Group, the Gates Foundation and diagnostics company Quantigen on a clinical investigation to determine whether spun synthetic swabs could be used for COVID-19 testing.
U.S. Cotton (Gastonia, N.C.) developed a polyester-based, Q-tip-type swab that is fully synthetic for compatibility with COVID-19 testing, according to the agency. Harnessing its large-scale, U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities, U.S. Cotton plans to produce these new polyester swabs in large quantities to help meet the needs for coronavirus diagnostic testing, the agency said.
“This action today demonstrates the ingenuity that results from the FDA working in partnership with the private sector,” said FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn in a news release. “We appreciate the work of these collaborators to consider how these test supplies could be broadly distributed to meet not only the testing needs of the United States but also global needs around the pandemic. All of these actions by these American organizations will help continue to expand our testing capability.”