Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise. In 2019, STDs reached an all-time high for the 6th consecutive year in a row, at more than 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While preliminary CDC data for 2021 indicates that reported cases remain steady at 2.5 million, the organization attributes this to decreased STD screening and underdiagnosis during the pandemic, rather than a reduction in new infections.
Because STDs do not always cause symptoms, the CDC points out, diagnosis is critical for preventing transmission. If left untreated, STDs can lead to issues ranging from difficulty getting pregnant to a number of serious health issues.
This increased risk is precisely why STD awareness and screening is critical. Healthcare providers seeking to build this awareness may begin by explaining the ease and benefits of STD testing, and when it may be possible to conduct a test using today’s STD swabs designed for minimally invasive self-collection.
STD versus STI
According to the CDC, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) refers to a pathogen that causes infection through sexual contact. An infection may lead to an STD, which refers to a specific, recognizable disease state caused by an infection.
What is an STD swab?
While syphilis and some other STDs must be confirmed by a blood test, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be diagnosed by collecting a sample from the genitals, throat, or rectum using an STD swab.
An STD swab is specially designed to collect a sample without irritating the patient or contamination of the sample. This swab can be used in conjunction with a transport kit or to carry the collected specimen directly to the lab for assay. A number of options are available for these swab tests. An endocervical sample, collected from the area around the opening of the uterus, is a preferred site for specimen collection from females. A urethral sample, collected from the urethra, is a preferred culture site in men or in women with no cervix.
In some instances, clinicians allow for self-collection of samples through a penile swab test or vaginal swab test. Self-collected specimens can often be tested using Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs), which have proven reliable for testing a number of STDs.
What is a penile swab test?
Penile meatal swabs allow for self-collection of samples, as opposed to more invasive clinician-collected urethral swab testing. A penile swab test collects a sample outside the opening of the penis, and does not require that the swab be inserted into the penis. This form of sampling may be used to test for M. genitalium, chlamydia, gonorrhea and human papillomavirus (HPV), among other pathogens.
What is a vaginal swab test?
Vaginal swabs allow for the self-collection collection of samples for a number of STDs. These minimally invasive tests provide similar sensitivity to clinician-collected swabs, according to CDC. Vaginal swab tests may be used to diagnose the presence of chlamydia, gonorrhea, C. trachomatis, M. genitalium, bacterial vaginosis, and Trichomoniasis, among other STDs.
What is the best material for an STD swab?
For diagnostic specimen collection, providers should use a synthetic tip on a synthetic handle. However, different tests may benefit from using different swab types. For self-collection of specimens, clinicians can provide a unisex swab, such as Puritan’s 25-1000-1PD. This polyester-tipped swab features a tapered handle and is suitable for male or female specimen collection.
For a vaginal swab test, a spun fiber swab such as the 25-806 1PR rayon-tipped swab or 25-806 1PD polyester-tipped swab provide ample specimen collection. For endocervical specimen collection, providers may consider a flock swab, such as the 25-3306-U PurFlock Ultra.
For male specimen collection, clinicians may consider the 25-800 D 50 polyester mini-tip on an aluminum handle or the 25-800 1PD ALUM 50, which features a polyester mini-tip on aluminum wire that is sleeved with a plastic handle for ease of use. Practitioners might also opt for a flock mini-tip swab such as the 25-3317-U.
To minimize the reporting of a false result, the CDC recommends confirmatory testing of positive test results. This means a second test may be recommended, and clinicians should consider this need in managing their inventory levels.
Resources for doing an STD self test
Clinicians should provide guidance to patients prior to self-collection of samples. A proper approach to sample collection is necessary to ensure an ample amount of specimen is gathered without risk of contamination.
Puritan provides resources that clinicians can use to help patients in self-sampling for vaginal collection or penile collection.
Why use Puritan for your STD swab needs
Because all of our swabs are made right here in the U.S.A., Puritan Medical is able to rapidly get the highest quality swabs available into your hands when you need them. If you’re ready to place an order, or simply want to determine the best swab for your specific needs, we encourage you to reach out to the Puritan sales team today.