Drive-thru COVID-19 virus testing last week in the parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett. A study by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group, conducted at Everett Clinic locations, found that a less-intrusive form of the coronavirus test would require fewer precautions by health care workers. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Drive-thru COVID-19 virus testing last week in the parking lot near Everett Memorial Stadium in Everett. A study by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group, conducted at Everett Clinic locations, found that a less-intrusive form of the coronavirus test would require fewer precautions by health care workers. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

New self-swab COVID-19 test is just as accurate, study finds

The study, under peer review, was led by an Everett Clinic doctor. It could speed up testing nationwide.

EVERETT — A coronavirus test that lets patients swab the front part of their nostril and mid-nose is just as accurate as those given by medical professionals, according to a study led by an infectious disease expert at The Everett Clinic.

The self-swab test was given to nearly 500 symptomatic patients across Washington, including some at multiple Everett Clinic locations. Results were accurate for more than 90% of patients who tested positive for the virus, according to the study coordinated by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group.

The study is under peer review for a medical journal, with publication expected soon. Once officially released, the findings will give health departments, hospitals and clinics a game plan for distributing self-sample kits, said Dr. Gerard Cangelosi, a UW professor and co-author of the study.

The results were consistent with current testing methods, such as drive-thrus where health care workers must use personal protective equipment and collect samples from deep inside a patient’s nasal cavity. New approval from the federal government could fast-track the method into mobile testing sites across the country.

“We know that broad, rapid and accurate testing is essential to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, yet the current clinician-administered process significantly limits testing capacity, puts frontline health care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure and is unpleasant for patients,” said Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, an infectious disease expert at The Everett Clinic who led the study. “Making simple, patient-administered testing widely available will substantially improve testing efficiency while protecting health care workers and preserving urgently needed personal protective equipment, such as face masks, gowns and gloves.”

In addition to the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Quest Diagnostics were partners in the study.

At least 64,000 people statewide have been tested for the new coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health. More than 8,000 of them were in Snohomish County. Those figures are from Saturday, due to delays in the release of state data.

A self-swabbing method could make testing more efficient locally and across the nation.

In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated regulations to allow self-administered swab tests for COVID-19 at designated collection sites. Those include drive-thru testing lots.

The FDA’s new rules don’t permit at-home testing, which wasn’t factored into the study.

“That requires a bit more engineering to make that possible,” Cangelosi said. “We need to be sure samples are going to be stable while tests are being mailed and people handle them safely.”

At-home tests could come in the near future, he said.

The study’s self-administered tests don’t require health care workers to wear as much personal protective equipment, which is already in short supply.

Current testing involves pushing a swab back into the nose, almost to the base of the brain. That can trigger sneezing, coughing or gagging.

“That’s uncomfortable and unpleasant for everyone involved,” Cangelosi said.

If patients take their own sample, health care workers would still wear a mask and gloves, he said, but they wouldn’t need a full body suit and face shield.

Last week, the county received nine pallets of masks, gloves and other gear from the federal stockpile, which was distributed to local hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities.

But there’s still a shortage across the state, Gov. Jay Inslee reiterated on Wednesday.

During a news conference, Inslee called on manufacturers in Washington to pivot to producing medical equipment.

“We have ongoing orders out for supplies from the federal stockpile, but the federal government has not been able to supply them to us fast enough to meet the need,” Inslee said. “We need to seize our own destiny.”

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A masked passenger sits in front of an empty row of seats on an Alaska Airlines flight from Spokane to Sea-Tac Monday evening. (Julie Muhlstein) 20201026
Flying to see family, it was a risk that seemed like a must

After eight months of not seeing my 98-year-old mom, a trip to my Spokane hometown was short and sweet.

Three people were shot at the Boo Han Oriental Market Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, off of Highway 99 in Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Charges: Boo Han shooter stalked wife, sent alarming texts

Duy Nguyen is charged with killing his wife’s friend and wounding two others at an Edmonds market.

As seen in body-camera video, an Everett police sergeant places handcuffs on Joseph Michael Hill, 39, while kneeling on his back. Everett's chief says it was reasonable use of force. Hill's attorney disagrees. (Everett Police Department) 20200524
Plea deal reached in case of Black man pinned by Everett cop

Joseph Hill’s arrest led Everett police to amend their policy. All charges except resisting arrest were dropped.

Firefighters were dispatched to a burning home Wednesday night in Monroe. (Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
Fire crews fight blaze at Monroe-area house throughout night

No injuries were reported. Access to water was a challenge as firefighters fought the flames.

Lilah 2 TEASER
Langley man builds automatic candy dispenser for Halloween

People are still finding ways to partake in the holiday’s celebrations in a safe manner.

Monroe Police Department
Police search for Monroe bank robbery suspect, hope for tips

A search with a police dog and drone could not track down the suspect Monday afternoon.

Darrington man sentenced in death of 2 horses he starved

He submitted an Alford plea, not admitting guilt but acknowledging a jury would likely convict him.

Bail set at $1 million in homicide outside Tulalip casino

The Spanaway man is accused of assaulting his girlfriend, who had a medical condition.

Jana Smith places her sister Jody Loomis' boot back into an evidence bag while testify on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Trial in Mill Creek murder tests memories of 48 years ago

Jody Loomis’ sister testified this week in the trial of a man accused of killing the 20-year-old in 1972.

Most Read