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Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease COVID-19) is used as part of diagnostic assessment and for screening the population during the current pandemic. The swab can be taken from various locations in the upper respiratory tract and analysed for the corona virus using either PCR or antigen tests (also known as rapid tests). PCR tests have a higher diagnostic accuracy than antigen tests, which, on the other hand, are more cost-effective and provide quicker results. Regardless of the test used, it is never better than the quality of how the actual swab is performed. It is, therefore, crucial that swabs are conducted correctly to avoid false negative PCR or antigen test results.

To enhance the sensitivity of the PCR test, WHO recommends combining nasal and throat swabs in the same test. This can also be done as a self-test, achieving a sensitivity similar to that of PCR of throat swabs. This educational site has been created to convey knowledge about the clinical instruction on how to perform various swab techniques as good as possible. Remember to follow the guidelines for infection control during tests for COVID-19. You can watch the WHO video below for a demonstration on how to handle individuals who need testing.

Illustration of the anatomical structures of the nasal cavity, oral cavity and the pharynx.
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