BioScience Trends. 2022;16(6):451-454. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2022.01498)

Verification of the efficiency of saline gargle sampling for detection of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, a pilot study

Qiao K, Tao X, Liu H, Zheng M, Asakawa T, Lu H


A saline gargle (SG) has proven to be an efficient method of sampling to detect SARS-CoV-2. The aim of this pilot study was to verify the efficiency of SG sampling in detecting the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Subjects were a total of 68 patients with COVID-19 (Omicron variant), and 167 pairs of samples were collected. A conventional oropharyngeal swab (OPS) was obtained and SG sampling was performed immediately afterward; both were subjected to RT-qPCR. A subgroup analysis of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients was performed. Results revealed no significant differences in the distribution of patients and cycle threshold (CT) values between the SG and OPS in overall data and data on days 1-3, 4-7, and 8-14. The subgroup analysis revealed no significant differences between the SG and OPS results in symptomatic patients. In asymptomatic patients, the CT values for the SG were significantly lower than those for the OPS, implying that SG sampling had better sensitivity in the context of the Omicron variant. These data indicate that the SG had satisfactory efficiency (vs. the OPS). An SG is a simple and less invasive method of sampling that is suited to mass, frequent, and repeated sampling to detect SARS-CoV-2.

KEYWORDS: saline gargle, SARS-CoV-2 detection, Omicron variant, oropharyngeal swab, COVID-19

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