Comparison of nasal brush and nasopharyngeal aspirate techniques in obtaining specimens for detection of respiratory syncytial viral antigen by immunofluorescence

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1989 Sep;8(9):598-601. doi: 10.1097/00006454-198909000-00006.


Diagnosis of respiratory syncytial virus by antigen detection is dependent on obtaining adequate respiratory epithelial cells. Two specimen collection methods, nasopharyngeal aspiration (NPA) and nasal brushing (NB), were compared. Thirty-two pediatric patients with presumed viral pneumonia or bronchiolitis (34 episodes) had both NPA and NB performed. Of 34 specimens 15 were culture-positive for respiratory syncytial virus. Of these 12 NPA samples and 10 NB samples had viral inclusions by immunofluorescent antibody staining (IFA). Of culture-negative samples, 1 of 17 NB was positive by IFA. One specimen obtained by NB had too few cells to read by the IFA method. Sensitivity and specificity were 80 and 100% for NPA and 67 and 94% for NB. Total respiratory cells and IFA-positive cells (classified as few, moderate, or many) were greater with NPA; however, NB was also an effective procedure and was better tolerated by children, less expensive and easier to perform.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral / analysis*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epithelium / microbiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nasal Cavity / microbiology
  • Nasopharynx / microbiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / immunology
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Respirovirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Specimen Handling / methods*


  • Antigens, Viral