Pandemic driven innovation: A pilot evaluation of an alternative respiratory pathogen collection device

Thang T. Nguyen, Wesley G. Zeger, Michael C. Wadman, Andy T. Schnaubelt, Aaron N. Barksdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The nasopharyngeal swab is the gold standard collection method for COVID-19, but is invasive and painful, subsequently resulting in poor patient acceptance. This investigation explores the process of developing and validating an alternative respiratory pathogen collection device that relies on a nasopharyngeal irrigation mechanic. The primary objective was to determine if sufficient pathological sampling can be achieved by mechanism of nasopharyngeal irrigation that is proportionate to the nasopharyngeal swab method. Methods: The study device was designed using Shapr3D modeling software and fabricated on a fused deposition modeling printer. Fifteen participants were enrolled with each receiving a saline nasopharyngeal washing using the study device. Specimen adequacy was evaluated by two real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing methods to identify the presence of the human RNase P gene. Results were evaluated quantitatively through interpretation of the PCR cycle threshold (Ct). Results: All 15 specimens tested positive for the presence of RNaseP, demonstrating specimen cellularity, adequate extraction of nucleic acids, and the absence of inhibitors to amplification. The mean Ct value was 29.5 (Applied Biosystems TaqPath RT-qPCR) and 30.7 (NECoV19). All participants felt the study device irrigation procedure was faster than the nasopharyngeal swab, with none experiencing any discomfort from the irrigation mechanism. Conclusion: The importance of early diagnostic testing and its role in countermeasures for communicable diseases such as COVID-19 is well established in the literature. Innovation to bolster our testing infrastructure is more important now than ever. This study was successful in developing and validating an alternative nasopharyngeal respiratory pathogen collection device that utilizes fluid debridement as its core mechanic. Data from this pilot study demonstrated the study device was successful in producing high-quality specimens for PCR testing. Feedback from the study participants was also in favor of the study device when compared to the nasopharyngeal swab.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-116
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Respiratory virus
  • Self-collection respiratory pathogen device

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Pandemic driven innovation: A pilot evaluation of an alternative respiratory pathogen collection device'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this