• Relative sensitivity of anterior nares and nasopharyngeal swabs for initial detection of SARS-CoV-2 in ambulatory patients: Rapid review and meta-analysis

      Zhou, Yaolin; O'Leary, Timothy J (Public Library of Science, 2021-07-20)
      Nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs are considered "gold standard" for diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 infections, but anterior nares or mid-turbinate swabs (nasal swabs) are often used. We performed a meta-analysis comparing the sensitivity of nasal and nasopharyngeal swabs against a composite reference standard for the initial diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection in ambulatory patients. The study is registered on PROSPERO (CRD42020221827). Data sources included studies appearing between January 1, 2020 and March 20, 2021, identified by searches of PubMed, medRxiv and bioRxiv. Studies included at least 20 subjects who simultaneously provided nasal and nasopharyngeal specimens for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction testing, and for which confusion matrices could be constructed. Authors individually assessed studies for inclusion and compared assessments. Each author independently extracted all data elements; differences were reconciled by review of initial data sources. Extracted data included specimen site, patient characteristics, collection site, and confusion matrices comparing results for nasal and nasopharyngeal swabs. Assessed against a composite reference standard, anterior nares swabs are less sensitive (82% - 88%) than nasopharyngeal swabs (98%). For populations with 10% specimen positivity, the negative predictive values of all swab types were greater than 98%. Mid-turbinate and anterior nares swabs seem to perform similarly. The lower sensitivity associated with nasal swab SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis is justified by the ability to screen more patients and reduced personal protective equipment requirements. Our conclusions are limited by the small number of studies and the significant heterogeneity of study designs and study outcomes.