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Detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by saliva and nasopharyngeal sampling in frontline healthcare workers: An observational cohort study

Walker, NF; Byrne, RL; Howard, A; Nikolaou, E; Farrar, M; Glynn, S; Cheliotis, KS; ... Vora, N; + view all (2023) Detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by saliva and nasopharyngeal sampling in frontline healthcare workers: An observational cohort study. PLoS ONE , 18 (1) , Article e0280908. 10.1371/journal.pone.0280908. Green open access

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Abstract

Background The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused an unprecedented strain on healthcare systems worldwide, including the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS). We conducted an observational cohort study of SARS-CoV-2 infection in frontline healthcare workers (HCW) working in an acute NHS Trust during the first wave of the pandemic, to answer emerging questions surrounding SARS-CoV-2 infection, diagnosis, transmission and control. Methods Using self-collected weekly saliva and twice weekly combined oropharyngeal/nasopharyngeal (OP/NP) samples, in addition to self-assessed symptom profiles and isolation behaviours, we retrospectively compared SARS-CoV-2 detection by RT-qPCR of saliva and OP/NP samples. We report the association with contemporaneous symptoms and isolation behaviour. Results Over a 12-week period from 30th March 2020, 40∙0% (n = 34/85, 95% confidence interval 31∙3-51∙8%) HCW had evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection by surveillance OP/NP swab and/or saliva sample. Symptoms were reported by 47∙1% (n = 40) and self-isolation by 25∙9% (n = 22) participants. Only 44.1% (n = 15/34) participants with SARS-CoV-2 infection reported any symptoms within 14 days of a positive result and only 29∙4% (n = 10/34) reported self-isolation periods. Overall agreement between paired saliva and OP/NP swabs was 93∙4% (n = 211/226 pairs) but rates of positive concordance were low. In paired samples with at least one positive result, 35∙0% (n = 7/20) were positive exclusively by OP/NP swab, 40∙0% (n = 8/20) exclusively by saliva and in only 25∙0% (n = 5/20) were the OP/NP and saliva result both positive. Conclusions HCW are a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in hospitals and symptom screening will identify the minority of infections. Without routine asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 screening, it is likely that HCW with SARS-CoV-2 infection would continue to attend work. Saliva, in addition to OP/NP swab testing, facilitated ascertainment of symptomatic and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections. Combined saliva and OP/NP swab sampling would improve detection of SARS-CoV-2 for surveillance and is recommended for a high sensitivity strategy.

Type: Article
Title: Detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by saliva and nasopharyngeal sampling in frontline healthcare workers: An observational cohort study
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280908
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0280908
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright: © 2023 Walker et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Humans, Saliva, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Cohort Studies, Retrospective Studies, State Medicine, Health Personnel, Specimen Handling, Nasopharynx
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Infection and Immunity
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health > Infection and Population Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Infection, Immunity and Inflammation Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10164652
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