Head-to-Head Comparison of Nasopharyngeal, Oropharyngeal and Nasal Swabs for SARS-CoV-2 Molecular Testing

Kasper Daugaard Larsen*, Mads Mose Jensen, Anne-Sophie Homøe, Elisabeth Arndal, Grethe Badsberg Samuelsen, Anders Koch, Xiaohui Chen Nielsen, Preben Homøe, Tobias Todsen

*Corresponding author for this work


Nasopharyngeal swabs (NPS) are considered the gold standard for SARS-CoV-2 testing but are technically challenging to perform and associated with discomfort. Alternative specimens for viral testing, such as oropharyngeal swabs (OPS) and nasal swabs, may be preferable, but strong evidence regarding their diagnostic sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2 testing is still missing. We conducted a head-to-head prospective study to compare the sensitivity of NPS, OPS and nasal swabs specimens for SARS-CoV-2 molecular testing. Adults with an initial positive SARS-CoV-2 test were invited to participate. All participants had OPS, NPS and nasal swab performed by an otorhinolaryngologist. We included 51 confirmed SARS-CoV-2-positive participants in the study. The sensitivity was highest for OPS at 94.1% (95% CI, 87 to 100%) compared to NPS at 92.5% (95% CI, 85 to 99%) (p = 1.00) and lowest for nasal swabs at 82.4% (95% CI, 72 to 93%) (p = 0.07). Combined OPS/NPS was detected in 100% of cases, while the combined OPS/nasal swab increased the sensitivity significantly to 96.1% (95% CI, 90 to 100%) compared to that of the nasal swab alone (p = 0.03). The mean Ct value for NPS was 24.98 compared to 26.63 for OPS (p = 0.084) and 30.60 for nasal swab (p = 0.002). OPS achieved a sensitivity comparable to NPS and should be considered an equivalent alternative for SARS-CoV-2 testing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number283
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2023


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