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Jan 11, 2022Print this page

Nasopharyngeal Sample Collection Kit: What to Look For


Diagnostic testing of a nasopharyngeal sample can be a highly effective means of identifying a range of infectious viral and bacterial organisms. However, the effectiveness of these tests depends in part on the materials used to collect the specimen prior to performing the diagnostic test. The sample must be collected using materials designed and validated for appropriate levels of absorption and elution, and sealed against contamination while the sample is transported from the patient to the diagnostic laboratory.

Using a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit can give patients, clinicians, and diagnostic teams greater confidence that results are collected and transported appropriately.

What is a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit?

A nasopharyngeal sample collection kit includes in one rapidly accessible location all of the elements necessary to collect a specimen sample from the nasopharynx and transport it to the laboratory for processing. These collection kits can support large-scale public health testing sites or ease of use within the clinician’s office or medical facility.

By having all components together in one easy-to-use kit, users can feel confident that they are pairing the right diagnostic swab with the appropriate transport media and reducing the risk of contamination during sample collection.

What are nasopharyngeal sample collection kits used for?

A nasopharyngeal sample allows analysis of the secretions found in the surface of the respiratory mucosa in the back of the throat, just behind the nose. This type of clinical testing is generally more accurate than simple throat cultures or nasal swabs, as the nasopharynx tends to contain a greater viral concentration. These samples are generally collected to identify the infectious organisms responsible for upper respiratory viral infections, including but not limited to influenza, RSV, and COVID-19.

Nasopharyngeal swabs can also be used to identify certain strains of dangerous infectious bacteria, including Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough), Staphylococcus aureus, and pneumonia-causing bacteria. 

What are the elements of a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit?

PurFlock Ultra 6" Sterile Ultrafine Flock Swab w/Polystyrene Handle, 100mm Breakpoint

While elements of a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit may vary somewhat depending on the specific targeted end use and user, kits in general, may include some of the following components: 

  • Sterile swab: The specific type of swab material may vary based on end use or CDC recommendations. However, polyester and flocked swabs feature synthetic tips that collect and retain a greater amount of specimen compared to other materials. These swab materials also are more comfortable for patients.
  • Transport media: This sealed tube is designed to hold the accompanying swab in place in a protected environment, allowing for the transfer of the samples to the laboratory for analysis without risk of contamination.
  • Label for collection tube: In some nasopharyngeal sample collection kits, this label may already be affixed to the transport media. It should allow room for writing the name of the patient and date sample was collected, along with other pertinent information.
  • Directions for use: Accurate results depend upon appropriate use of the sample kit. Your nasopharyngeal sample collection kit should include clear directions for use, including how to collect a sample and prepare it for transport. Always read the manufacturer’s package insert for specific instructions regarding specimen collection and transport for the type of test kit being used.

What to look for in a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit

A nasopharyngeal sample collection kit goes a long way to ensuring the right tools are provided for the job at hand, but not all kits are created equally. Selecting a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit that contains the highest quality swabs is particularly important. Nasopharyngeal swabs should feature a long, thin tip and thin, flexible handle specially designed to reach the nasopharynx while minimizing patient discomfort. A handle designed with a breakpoint simplifies the process of storing the swab into the transport media provided in your nasopharyngeal sample collection kit.

The swab tip material is also critically important, as not all swab materials are well suited for viral testing. It’s best to avoid plant-based materials such as cotton, as the material may interfere with the testing process, as well as swabs made with calcium alginate, which can inactivate the virus. 

Flocked swabs are an excellent option for nasopharyngeal sample collection, as these diagnostic tools are specially designed for high sample absorption and retention, and rapid release. Spun polyester and foam swabs are also suitable options.

Nasopharyngeal sample collection kits

Nasopharyngeal sample collection kits can come with a variety of options. However, since kits are designed for ease of use, users may benefit from universal nasopharyngeal sample collection kits designed to meet a range of needs.

HydraFlock 6" Sterile Revised Ultrafine Flock Swab w/Polystyrene Handle, 80mm Breakpoint

In general, options include:

  • Viral collection kits: Solutions in a universal transport system might feature antimicrobial agents to minimize bacterial and fungal contamination while ensuring a seal-proof return of your sample. Kits should be designed to facilitate easy swab removal and disposal. Swabs with molded breakpoint designs can best accommodate different sampling sites and ensure fast, safe, and convenient sampling.
  • Bacteria collection kits: Ready-to-use transport systems for the collection and transport of aerobic, anaerobic, and fastidious bacteria, should include a liquid Amies filled vial in addition to a sterile applicator. These kits might be used to secure bacterial samples for microbiology cultures, rapid diagnostic tests, gram staining, automation and molecular testing. Many such kits feature a shelf life of up to 18 months.

How to use a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit

Always read the manufacturer’s package insert for specific instructions regarding specimen collection and transport for the type of test kit being used. The use of a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit in association with a rapid diagnostic kit or with diagnostic instrumentation should be previously validated by the user.

Using a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit is simple:

  1. Wash hands and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
  2. Aseptically remove sterile swab from package.
  3. Tilt patient’s head back slightly to straighten nasal passage.
  4. Insert swab straight back horizontally to the nasopharynx until resistance is met.
  5. Rotate swab up to 5 times and hold in place 5-10 seconds to collect sample.
  6. Place swab into the viral transport medium and break off handle where indicated.
  7. Cap tightly, label with patient information and deliver to lab for testing.

This how-to video from our blog will walk you through the standard protocol listed above.

In addition to providing high-quality swabs and sample collection kits designed to support medical professionals with accurate diagnostics, Puritan is also committed to providing help and answers. If you have questions about what to expect from a nasopharyngeal sample collection kit, don’t hesitate to reach out. For more information on how Puritan products can help you meet your testing needs, please contact us today. 

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Topics: Flu, Flocked Swabs, Media Transport Systems, Medical, Diagnostics, Specimen Collection Procedure


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