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Mayo Clin Proc. 2012 Jun;87(6):548-54. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.02.011. Epub 2012 May 1.

Effectiveness of patient-collected swabs for influenza testing.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



To compare the effectiveness of self-collected and health care worker (HCW)-collected nasal swabs for detection of influenza viruses and determine the patients' preference for type of collection.


We enrolled adult patients presenting with influenzalike illness to the Emergency Department at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, from January 28, 2011, through April 30, 2011. Patients self-collected a midturbinate nasal flocked swab from their right nostril following written instructions. A second swab was then collected by an HCW from the left nostril. Swabs were tested for influenza A and B viruses by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, and percent concordance between collection methods was determined.


Of the 72 paired specimens analyzed, 25 were positive for influenza A or B RNA by at least one of the collection methods (34.7% positivity rate). When the 14 patients who had prior health care training were excluded, the qualitative agreement between collection methods was 94.8% (55 of 58). Two of the 58 specimens (3.4%) from patients without health care training were positive only by HCW collection, and 1 of 58 (1.7%) was positive only by patient self-collection. A total of 53.4% of patients (31 of 58) preferred the self-collection method over the HCW collection, and 25.9% (15 of 58) had no preference.


Self-collected midturbinate nasal swabs provide a reliable alternative to HCW collection for influenza A and B virus real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.

Copyright © 2012 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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