Evaluation of Swab-Seq as a scalable, sensitive assay for community surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 infection

Sci Rep. 2022 Feb 23;12(1):3047. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-06901-5.


The ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and subsequent demand for viral testing has led to issues in scaling diagnostic lab efforts and in securing basic supplies for collection and processing of samples. This has motivated efforts by the scientific community to establish improved protocols that are more scalable, less resource intensive, and less expensive. One such developmental effort has resulted in an assay called "Swab-Seq", so named because it was originally developed to work with dry nasal swab samples. The existing gold standard test consists of RNA extracted from a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab that is subjected to quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Swab-Seq adapts this method to a next-generation sequencing readout. By pairing this modification with extraction-free sampling techniques, Swab-Seq achieves high scalability, low cost per sample, and a reasonable turnaround time. We evaluated the effectiveness of this assay in a community surveillance setting by testing samples collected from both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals using the traditional NP swab. In addition, we evaluated extraction-free sampling techniques (both saliva and saline mouth gargle samples). We found the assay to be as clinically sensitive as the qRT-PCR assay, adaptable to multiple sample types, and able to easily accommodate hundreds of samples at a time. We thus provide independent validation of Swab-Seq and extend its utility regarding sample type and sample stability. Assays of this type greatly expand the possibility of routine, noninvasive, repeated testing of asymptomatic individuals suitable for current and potential future needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*