Coronavirus FAQ: Why are some folks hacking home COVID tests by swabbing their throat?

A home test in the U.S. comes with a sample to swirl in the nostrils. Some users say they're doing the same thing as the instructions don't say so. The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration cautions that they may stab themselves.

The images are courtesy of Angus Mordant.

A lot of people on the social networking site say that if you want to detect the omicron variant in your COVID-19 testing kit, you might want to take a saliva sample from your throat and nose. Is this true?

If you've ever used a do-it-yourself COVID-19 home test, you know the drill. If you swirl a cotton swab around in your nostrils, mix it with liquid and then drop it on a test strip to find out if it's positive or negative for the coronaviruses, you're done.

There has been a debate about where to stick the cotton swab. Some medical professionals believe the test is more effective at detecting the coronaviruses, and specifically the omicron variant, with a throat and/or cheek swab in addition to the nasal swab.

Is there any medical science to back up this hack?

The idea of a throat swab is not a radical step. In Canada and the U.K., home tests are designed for a throat swab, even though the U.S. kits are only for a nasal swab.

The idea of using a throat swab is connected to the omicron variant, which was identified in late November and has swept the world. Omicron may be found in the throat before the nose.

The University of Cape Town conducted a study on that. The ability of the tests to detect the variant was examined by researchers. In patients with the delta variant of the coronaviruses, saliva samples detected the virus at a higher rate than nasal samples. In patients with omicron, the researchers found that saliva samples were the only way to detect the virus.

The research was not reviewed by other people. The tests used in the study were not the same as the ones used in the research. The gold standard for testing is the conjugated cholesterol test, which is done in a health-care facility. For more on the differences, see this story.

The South African study led to some people in the U.S. experimenting with antigen tests by taking a saliva sample from their cheeks or throats.

The Food and Drug Administration said that the kits are not approved for at- home use.

The FDA has not given the go-ahead for the public to use the throat swab.

Dr. Michael Mina is the chief science officer at the testing company e Med and he is one of the most quoted voices in favor of throat swabbing. He has said that we should be looking into throat swabs to add some level of sensitivity and that theThroat swab may improve chances of picking up a virus.

The FDA was right to warn the public not to go against manufacturer's directions, according to Mina.

"The tests haven't been designed to do throat swabs, so we don't know whether there are false positives or negatives," said Dr. Weatherhead, assistant professor of adult and child infectious diseases at the college. It makes sense that you would want to do it, but that's not how the tests have been developed.

Dr. Yuka Manabe is an associate director of Global Health Research and innovation professor of medicine at the John'sHopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She says it's possible the sample would need to be filters first to get an accurate result.

That's not a critical concern according to Dr. Daignault, who is the chief medical adviser to Reliant Health Services. He says that the nature of throat saliva could cause the test to display a message that the result is invalid rather than a false positive.

The length of the swab in some of the kits isn't long enough to be used in the front of the nose, which is an obvious problem. For some of the kits, it would be difficult to get that into the back of your throat.

The public debate about the best way to sample has prompted a growing chorus of voices to call for new studies and a revision of the kits.

That kind of change is what Tal is hoping for. Tal is an instructor at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of California, Berkeley, and a visiting scientist at MIT. She wants them to take a COVID test, and if they don't gag easily, she's going to have them take their throat out.

Tal is frustrated that the FDA and CDC didn't try to make more rapid changes. The virus is always two steps ahead of us.

The FDA's acting head said at a congressional hearing Monday that theNIH helped speed up the authorization of new home tests so that they can be approved in just a few days. She said that it may take a while for companies to change their test configurations to include larger throat swabs.

She warned people not to use the current devices, which are designed to be used in the nose. She said that they may stab themselves. That would not be good.

Eldred is a health journalist. She has written about COVID-19 for a number of publications. There is more at On social media, milepostmedia is on it.