The Effects of "Dry Swab" Incubation on SARS-CoV-2 Molecular Testing

Bijal A. Parikh, Meghan A. Wallace, Broc T. McCune, Carey Ann D. Burnham, Neil W. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Widespread testing of SARS-CoV-2 has resulted in shortages of collection devices and transport media. We evaluated the stability of flocked swabs inoculated with SARS-CoV-2-containing specimen incubated dry (i.e., without transport medium) at room temperature. METHODS: A pool of SARS-CoV-2 positive specimen was used to inoculate flocked swabs. Five swabs were placed immediately into universal transport media (UTM) following inoculation, and tested immediately (day 0). Fifteen of the swabs were placed into sterile 15-mL conical tubes and incubated at room temperature for 1, 2, or 7 days. Following incubation, swabs were hydrated in separate vials of UTM and tested. This protocol was repeated for viral transport media (VTM) and saline. As a comparison, a series of swabs was prepared and tested in parallel, but stored in the corresponding liquid transport media (UTM, VTM, or saline) and incubated at room temperature. Testing was performed at 1, 2, and 7 days postinoculation in duplicate. All molecular testing was performed using the Roche cobas SARS-CoV-2 assay. RESULTS: All dry swabs tested on days 1, 2, and 7 provided results that were within 2 cycle thresholds (CTs) of the average CT values for swabs hydrated in the same media and tested on day 0. There was no statistical difference in CT values between swabs incubated in liquid media versus dry swabs incubated at room temperature prior to hydration in liquid media. CONCLUSIONS: The utilization of "dry swabs" may simplify specimen collection, negate the need for liquid transport media, and mitigate safety risks while preserving the accuracy of testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1281-1286
Number of pages6
JournalThe journal of applied laboratory medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • molecular testing


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