Sensitivity of Nasopharyngeal Swabs and Saliva for the Detection of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Mar 15;72(6):1064-1066. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa848.


We enrolled 91 consecutive inpatients with COVID-19 at 6 hospitals in Toronto, Canada, and tested 1 nasopharyngeal swab/saliva sample pair from each patient using real-time RT-PCR for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Sensitivity was 89% for nasopharyngeal swabs and 72% for saliva (P = .02). Difference in sensitivity was greatest for sample pairs collected later in illness.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; nasopharyngeal swab; saliva.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Canada
  • Humans
  • Nasopharynx
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Saliva