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Can we use the properties of SARS CoV2 to help choose simple to use swabs and swabbing procedures?

A: Not for current challenges

SARS CoV-2 and related coronaviruses have been shown to have a significant and persistent half life (up to 9 days) on a number of material surfaces particularly stainless steel but also a variety of plastics Including polypropylene,Teflon, PVC. (1,2) at ambient temperatures.

Can this property be exploited to enable the use of very simple and widely available swabbing materials e.g. polypropylene rods or strips or pvc sheets or strips?

For simple non quantitative tests which need to demonstrate the presence of virus there may not be a need to ensure that these materials are sterile for non invasive swabbing merely hygienic and free of virus in the pre used state. The room temperature persistence of virus on these surfaces at ambient temperatures is long enough to ensure that if the swabs were contained in a simple tube or sealable bag they could be returned to a testing centre by a non refrigerated sample chain.

Self swabbing at home could be enabled by choice of soft tipped rods as swabs or by as crude a method as blowing or wiping the nose with a small pvc sheet folding the sheet and inserting in a return ‘envelope’.


1.Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents

G. Kampf et al. Journal of Hospital Infection Volume 104, Issue 3, p245-396.

2. Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1.
Neeltje van Doremalen et al.
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973. New England Journal of Medicine March 17, 2020, at

Have you validated this method, if so, how and what were the results of the validation?

No idea only at this stage to stimulate though / discussion

How quickly could this be deployed and what are the dependencies?

Quickly if swab kit can be fabricated or assembled

What is the likely production volume?

High given simplicity of swab kit methodology 

What are the risks and barriers to using this at scale?

Non sterile nature of swab risks potential false negatives if sample is not stable in sample chai . However persistence studies suggest high probability of sufficient stability

Who are you already partnering with on this?

No one as yet

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Jo Martin Apr 14, 2020

How are you planning to take this forward?

Mark Carver Apr 15, 2020

Hi Jo . I have some contacts who may be able to link me to Smith and Nephew for further discussion. Mark.

Jo Martin Apr 15, 2020

Excellent, and best wishes with this. Many thanks for sharing this!

Bev Matthews Apr 19, 2020

Status label added: A

Bev Matthews Apr 21, 2020

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone.