FDA approves new type of swab for COVID-19 testing

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new type of swab to use for COVID-19 testing in response to a critical shortage of cotton swabs, which has been one of the biggest obstacles in expanding COVID-19 testing in the U.S. 

The new swabs, developed by U.S. Cotton, the country's largest cotton swab manufacturer, are polyester-based, which experts said are easier to manufacture, STAT reported. The FDA said U.S. Cotton plans to manufacture the swabs in "large quantities." 

Experts told STAT they hope the swabs will be "so cheap and accessible that we can make them available to anybody as soon as they have a coldlike illness."

The FDA also is allowing testing samples to be collected by circling the swab in a patients' nose instead of sticking a swab deep into the throat through a nostril, a process that often makes a patient sneeze, meaning healthcare workers have to wear full protective gear to avoid contracting the disease. Protective gear has been in critical shortage, and experts hope the new swabs will help alleviate shortages. 

The new swab technique can also be done by patients themselves instead of by healthcare professionals. 

The FDA also is allowing COVID-19 tests to be stored in saline solution instead of viral transport media, which have been in short supply. 

UnitedHealth Group, Quantigen and the Gates Foundation all contributed to clinical studies that made approval of the new swabs possible. 

Read the full news release here.


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