Self-collected specimens has been advocated to avoid infectious exposure to healthcare workers. Self-induced sputum in those with a productive cough, and saliva in those without a productive cough have been proposed, but sensitivity remains uncertain.
We performed a prospective study in two regional hospitals in Hong Kong.
We prospectively examined 563 serial samples collected during the virus shedding periods of 50 patients: 150 deep-throat saliva (DTS), 309 pooled-nasopharyngeal (NP) and throat swabs, and 104 sputum. DTS had the lowest overall RT-PCR positive rate (68.7% vs. 89.4% [sputum] and 80.9% [pooled NP and throat swabs]), and the lowest viral RNA concentration (mean log copy/mL 3.54 vs. 5.03 [sputum] and 4.63 [pooled NP and throat swabs]). Analyses with respect to time from symptom onset and severity also revealed similar results. Virus yield of DTS correlated with that of sputum (Pearson correlation index [95% CI]: 0.76 [0.62 – 0.86]). We estimated the overall false-negative rate of DTS could be 31.3%, and increased 2.7 times among patients without sputum.
DTS produced the lowest viral RNA concentration and RT-PCR positive rate compared to conventional respiratory specimens in all phases of illness. Self-collect sputum should be the choice for patients with sputum.

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References

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