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Results of a Pilot Study using Self-Collected Mid-Turbinate Nasal Swabs for Detection of Influenza Virus Infection among Pregnant Women

Thompson MG, Ferber JR, Odouli R, David D, Shifflett P, Meece JK, Naleway AL, Bozeman S, Spencer SM, Fry AM, Li DK


June 8, 2015
We evaluated the feasibility of asking pregnant women to self-collect and ship respiratory specimens.

In a preliminary laboratory study, we compared the RT-PCR cycle threshold (CT) values of influenza A and B viruses incubated at 4 storage temperatures (from 4 to 35°C) for 6 time periods (8, 24, 48, 72, and 168 hours and 30 days), resulting in 24 conditions that were compared to an aliquot tested after standard freezing (−20°C) (baseline condition). In a subsequent pilot study, during January–February, 2014, we delivered respiratory specimen collection kits to 53 pregnant women with a medically attended acute respiratory illness using three delivery methods.

CT values were stable after storage at temperatures <27°C for up to 72 hours for influenza A viruses and 48 hours for influenza B viruses. Of 53 women who received kits during the pilot, 89% collected and shipped nasal swabs as requested. However, 30% (14/47) of the women took over 2 days to collect and ship their specimen. The human control gene, ribonuclease P (RNase P), was detected in 100% of nasal swab specimens. However, the mean CT values for RNase P (26·5, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 26·0–27·1) and for the 8 influenza A virus positives in our pilot (32·2, 95% CI = 28·9–35·5) were significantly higher than the CTs observed in our 2010–2012 study using staff-collected nasal pharyngeal swabs (P-values < 0·01).

Self-collection of respiratory specimens is a promising research method, but further research is needed to quantify the sensitivity and specificity of the approach.
North America