Comparison of four nasal sampling methods for the detection of viral pathogens by RT-PCR-A GA(2)LEN project

J Virol Methods. 2009 Mar;156(1-2):102-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2008.10.027. Epub 2008 Dec 19.


The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy and patient discomfort between four techniques for obtaining nasal secretions. Nasal secretions from 58 patients with symptoms of a common cold, from three clinical centers (Amsterdam, Lodz, Oslo), were obtained by four different methods: swab, aspirate, brush, and wash. In each patient all four sampling procedures were performed and patient discomfort was evaluated by a visual discomfort scale (scale 1-5) after each procedure. Single pathogen RT-PCRs for Rhinovirus (RV), Influenza virus and Adenovirus, and multiplex real-time PCR for RV, Enterovirus, Influenza virus, Adenovirus, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Parainfluenza virus, Coronavirus, Metapneumovirus, Bocavirus and Parechovirus were performed in all samples. A specific viral cause of respiratory tract infection was determined in 48 patients (83%). In these, the detection rate for any virus was 88% (wash), 79% (aspirate), 77% (swab) and 74% (brush). The degree of discomfort reported was 2.54 for swabs, 2.63 for washes, 2.68 for aspirates and 3.61 for brushings. Nasal washes yielded the highest rate of viral detection without excessive patient discomfort. In contrast, nasal brushes produced the lowest detection rates and demonstrated the highest level of discomfort.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Cavity / virology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • RNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Young Adult


  • RNA, Viral