Objective: We examined the feasibility of combining communication by e-mail and self-collection of nasal swabs for the prospective detection of acute respiratory infections in a non-medical setting.
Methods: The study was conducted among a convenience sample of employees (n=53) at a research institution (December 2009-April 2010). Real-time data on the occurrence of acute respiratory symptoms and a nasal self-swab were collected prospectively, with automated weekly e-mails as a reminder mechanism. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to detect respiratory viral pathogens in the swabs.
Results: Fifty-one out of 53 participants completed the study. The study design was well accepted. Thirty (∼57%) participants reported at least one episode of acute respiratory infection and returned the nasal swab during the study period (eight participants reported two episodes). The majority had no difficulties taking the self-swab and preferred this to swabbing by study personnel. Most participants obtained and returned the swabs within the recommended time. Viral respiratory pathogens were detected in 19 of 38 swabs (50%), with coronaviruses 229E/NL63 and OC43 and rhinoviruses A and B constituting 17 positive swabs (89%).
Conclusions: Combining e-mail-based symptomatic surveillance with nasal self-swabbing promises to be a powerful tool for the real-time identification of incident cases of acute respiratory infections and the associated pathogens in population-based studies.
Copyright © 2011 International Society for Infectious Diseases. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.