Prevent DNA Specimen Degradation by Choosing the Right Swabs

Prevent DNA Specimen Degradation (1)

How Choosing the Right Materials Can Prevent DNA Specimen Degradation

Whether for genetic testing or another application, preserving DNA integrity through all steps of the handling process is essential to avoiding potential errors, which can be costly and time-intensive to correct. The most effective way to proactively avoid DNA specimen degradation is selecting the right tools for your needs.

There are a few types of media transport systems available, but before you can determine the best option for your needs, it may be helpful to consider the following questions:

  1. Are you going to prepare the DNA for examination immediately after collecting it?
  2. Will the specimen be stored for use in the future, and if so, for how long?
  3. Do you expect to ship the DNA specimen to an offsite processing lab? If so, what is the anticipated time frame between collection and examination?

Most importantly, the main objective is to minimize the amount of degradation that your DNA specimen undergoes. The more time between collection and processing that passes, the more measures you’ll need to put in place to preserve the sample. Additionally, moisture is another degrading factor, so preventing increased moisture levels is  essential.

Bearing these factors in mind, here are some products you should consider n your DNA transport system:

Dry-Tip Swabs

Puritan Cap-Shure Sterile Cotton Swabs: 25-806-1WC-EC
Puritan Cap-Shure Sterile Cotton Swabs: 25-806-1WC-EC

Swabs are the first tool used in the specimen collection process, and they play an important  role in maintaining the integrity of your samples. As such, it’s important to select the right type of swab to keep DNA protected. It’s best to select a sterile dry swab, because again, keeping moisture at bay is important for safeguarding your samples.

If you’re transporting the specimen and don’t plan to use a preservative solution, it’s ideal to allow the swab to air-dry before preparing it for shipment. As long as the environment is kept at a suitable temperature and humidity level, 30 minutes of drying time should suffice.

Depending on your application, you may also wish to consider a cap to prevent DNA contamination.  Puritan offers many swabs with the the cap built in.  These swabs are called Cap-Shure® and feature an aerated tip protector over the swab tip to help the drying process and protect the specimen.

Dry Transport Tubes

Puritan Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT
Puritan Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT

Another option for keeping your swabs protected against cross-contamination is using plastic transport tubes. The swab attaches to a cap and is inserted into a tube, much like a test-tube.  A label affixed to the outside of the tube allows for data to be written about the specimen collected.  Dry Transport Swabs include their own transport tubes for safe travel and are available with different tip materials such as calcium alginate, cotton, flocked, foam, polyester, and rayon.

Whichever option you select, Harmony Business Supplies has all of the right products to help you handle and transport DNA specimens as efficiently as possible. You can view their vast array of options online now, or get in touch with a product specialist for more information.


Guide: Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

Guide: Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

A Complete Guide to Specimen Collection for Diagnostics

Following the right specimen collection procedures is critical. Not only does it protect healthcare professionals, laboratory staff, and the patient, it also ensures accuracy in diagnostic testing. For infectious diseases, it’s important to get specimen collection right on the first try. That’s why having the proper tools is essential.

When it comes to the swabs and vials used for collecting specimens for diagnostic testing, you have a lot of options. While traditional cotton tips may have been the go-to choice of yesteryear, today’s selections boast significant advancements and options tailored to your unique needs.
Indeed, modern-day swabs come with a number of features designed for ease of use. In this post, we’ll share a comprehensive overview of specimen collection kits as well as considerations to help you determine which option is best for your application.

Media Transport Swab Systems

In many healthcare settings, media transport systems are used. These systems can optimize the specimen collection process and make handling and transporting specimens safe and convenient. They are also designed to provide rapid release, and by integrating high-quality swabs into the system, you’ll receive the best level of elution.

UniTranz-RT Transport System: UT-302
Puritan UniTranz-RT ® Transport System: UT-302

One popular choice for transport media is the Puritan UniTranz-RT ®. It can be used to transport any virus, in addition to bacterial specimens such as Chlamydia and Ureaplasma. The universal transport liquid suspends the cells until processed. They can be purchased as vials of transport medium exclusively; or, for utmost convenience, you can also choose different tipped applicators to complete the system.

Puritan Opti-Swab Mini-Tip Swab with Liquid Amies: LA-116
Puritan Opti-Swab Mini-Tip Swab with Liquid Amies: LA-116

For fastidious and both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria, the Opti-Swab ® transport system is an ideal choice. The liquid amies suspends the cells until processed. It protects the viable bacteria specimens during lab transport and employs flocked or rayon swabs for effective specimen collection.

For certain types of microorganisms, enrichment media are needed to create ideal environments. By adding enrichment media, you’ll promote the development of the particular microorganism for which your testing while also limiting the growth of others. Staph organisms, for instance, require the specific liquid transport MRSA, due to its resistance to antimicrobials. Salmonella, on the other hand, can be enriched with selenite broth. LIM broth is used as an enrichment media for Group B Strep in pregnant women.

In comparison to media transport swabs, there are also Dry Transport Swab systems to consider. Dry transport swabs can be used in general-purpose cell collection and transport to the lab, testing, screening, and DNA testing.

Puritan Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT
Puritan Dry Transport Cell Collection Polyester Swab: 25-806-2PD-TT

As you can see, there are various types of systems available for the collection and transport of specimens, many of which are designed specifically for one type or group of of bacteria or viruses. While it’s helpful to know what you’re testing for in order to determine the best type of collection kit to use, it’s also beneficial to consider the place from which you’re collecting specimens on the patient. We’ll discuss these considerations below.


Considerations By Application

For certain types of specimen collection, proper practices are mandated by the CDC. For instance, to collect upper respiratory tract specimens, it is recommended by the CDC that collectors use flocked swabs to collect specimens from the tonsil and nasal areas. To avoid inactivation of certain viruses or inhibition of molecular assays, it’s recommended that users do not select wooden-shaft swabs for this application, as the wood could compromise the specimens. Additionally, sterile rayon swabs or sterile polyester swabs are recommended.

Once collection of upper respiratory tract specimens has been completed, swabs must be immediately placed into vials with non-antibiotic transport media. There are additional steps outlined by the CDC for the process, including the use of both oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal swabs. Nasopharyngeal swabs are also used to test for conditions such as whooping cough and certain types of flu.

HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Mini Tip with Transport Tube: 25-3316-H-EMB-100-BT
Great as nasopharyngeal swab: HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Mini Tip with Transport Tube: 25-3316-H-EMB-100-BT

Of course, the nose and throat aren’t the only sites for specimen collection. For any area of the body, patient sensitivity should be considered to help determine which swab and collection products to use.

For instance, rectal cultures can be obtained to identify types of bacteria indicating gastrointestinal diseases, but because of the levels of sensitivity, the gentlest swabs possible should be used to collect samples from this region. Likewise, specimens from genitalia, orifices, and any other sensitive areas should be collected using swabs that will minimize discomfort. Calcium Alginate Swabs are also a good choice, since any residual trace fiber left will safely dissolve.

Puritan Sterile Calcium Alginate Nasopharyngeal Tip Swab: 25-800-A-50
Puritan Sterile Calcium Alginate Nasopharyngeal Tip Swab: 25-800-A-50

Luckily, there is a vast number of options available for specimen collection and transport to keep patients safe and comfortable while also preserving the integrity of the sample. By weighing the considerations listed here, you can identify the best types of swabs, vials, and complete transport kits to best meet your needs. Harmony Business Supply has an extensive range of products available to choose from, which you can view online. If you’d like additional assistance deciding on the best option for your application, feel free to consult with one of our product specialists.

Harmony Business Supplies

Sterile Swabs for DNA Collection

Sterile Swabs for DNA Collection

The Importance of Choosing the Right Sterile Swabs for DNA Collection

DNA is a molecule found in humans and virtually every other living thing on the planet. Through this hereditary material, testing companies can discover a world of information about any given individual. Virtually all cells in the body carry the same DNA, but the cheek is often used as the primary site for collecting DNA.

Swabbing the cheek is an approach widely used across a number of applications, including paternity testing, criminal investigations, and determining ancestry. This method is preferred because it’s non-invasive, unlike blood tests. (As you might imagine, it’s a welcome alternative for needle-averse individuals!) The cheek is also an ideal site for testable genetic material, as a wealth of DNA can be retrieved from just a small sample of saliva.

That said, there are some considerations to be mindful of when it comes to using cheek swabbing to extract DNA. Most importantly, you need to have the right tools.

You might think that all swabs are created equal, but that’s not the case when it comes to DNA testing. It turns out these little swabs play a major role in achieving accurate DNA results. In fact, a study published by the Journal of Forensic Research confirmed that the tightness of cotton found on sterile swabs can actually impact the odds of creating conclusive DNA profiles.

Thus, if your situation is critically important – for instance, you’re ruling out a suspect in a homicide case – there’s absolutely no room for mistakes!

So, choosing the right sterile swabs is a critical component in ensuring accurate DNA results. But can’t you just use the regular cotton swabs found at the grocery store to retrieve DNA?

In theory, you could but the results would be less than perfect.  The swab is likely to return inconclusive results.  At a minimum when you’re collecting a DNA sample the swab should be sterile.

This eliminates contaminants that may cloud your results.  Optimally, you should use a DNA Free swab that is tested and certified to be DNA free.

When it comes to selecting the right sterile swab, you have some choices. While they all serve the same purpose, swabs can be made from different materials. We’ll explore each below, along with its properties and pros and cons.

Foam Sterile Swabs

Puritan Sterile Foam Tip Swab 25-1805-RND-2
Puritan Sterile Foam Tip Swab 25-1805-RND

Foam-tip sterile swabs, as their names suggest, have foam ends designed to capture the cells found inside a person’s cheek (also known as buccal cells). The foam is highly absorbent, which is ideal for collecting and retaining saliva. Since they’re non-abrasive, they won’t cause any discomfort to the DNA donor.

Their gentle tip also makes it easy for nurses and medical professionals to rub the swab thoroughly in the cheek pocket and near the gum line, where saliva often accumulates.

Among all the types of sterile swabs, foam tip swabs have the highest particle collection capacity. Their porous nature allows them to capture a high-quality DNA sample, and the retrieval process is equally efficient. When lab workers need to release the sample, all they’ll have to do is elute the foam tip into their preferred buffer method.

Foam tip swabs are also available in a variety of different sizes to accommodate all types of donors and applications. Small and regular tip sizes available, and the tip also comes in different shapes, including standard, rectangular, and round.

You can also choose among different shaft materials, including plastic and polypropylene. To preserve sterility, each swab is individually wrapped.

Flocked Sterile Swabs

HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Elongated Tip P25-3806-H-2
HydraFlock® Flocked Sterile Swab, Elongated Tip P25-3806-H

Like foam tip swabs, flocked sterile swabs have superior collection and release characteristics. Although they aren’t as absorbent as the foam tip swabs, they feature unique flocked fibers which make collection and elution simple and effective.

Polyester flock swabs are commonly used in buccal cell collection, and due to their excellent absorption and elution capabilities, they are the go-to options for rapid diagnostic testing.

Flocking refers to a process of applying short fibers to an adhesive-coated surface, resulting in a swab with a velvet-like brush tip.

Their flocked fiber tip structure also makes them a gentler alternative to foam and cotton sterile swabs. Thus, they can be used even in newborns, and their collection characteristics make it possible to collect saliva even in children whose salivary glands may not be developed.

These, too, come in a variety of options. Tip sizes range from mini (18.4 by 3.4 mm) to large (16.2 by 5.3 mm) to even elongated (17.3 by 5.5 mm). Flocked sterile swabs are also pre-packaged to prevent contamination.

Cotton Sterile Swabs

Puritan Sterile Large Tip Cotton Swabs P25-806-10WCL
Puritan Sterile Large Tip Cotton Swabs P25-806-10WCL

Finally, there’s the swab everyone knows and loves: the cotton swab. Again, these medical-grade cotton sterile swabs are far different from those you use at home.

Not only do they feature longer shafts for convenient cell collection, they also may be produced in cleanroom environments to prevent any possibility of DNA contamination.

By nature, cotton is a bit more abrasive than the foam and flocked swabs described above. Yet, that can be an advantage for DNA collection – it provides ample friction for releasing buccal cells. It’s also still gentle enough to prevent any discomfort.

Cotton sterile swabs are also versatile because you can either elute the swab in a buffer or remove the tip and drop it into a vial. Like the varieties described above, cotton sterile swabs are available in a variety of sizes and quantities, and are packaged individually.

Choosing the Right Sterile Swab

Now that you’re familiar with the different swab options available for DNA collection, which will you choose? Here are some factors to consider before making your decision:

  • Do you need an ample DNA size for your application, or will it suffice to have a small sample?
  • How old are the donors from whom you’re collecting DNA?
  • Will a professional be collecting the DNA, or will the donor themselves be performing the retrieval?
  • Is the sterile swab going to be part of a kit?
  • Will the samples be transported, or will the tests be performed on premises?

No matter your unique needs, Harmony Business Supplies has the right sterile swabs available for your DNA/buccal cell retrieval purposes. With dozens of materials, sizes, shapes, and quantities to choose from, we have a diverse selection of low-cost swabs available.

All of the options listed above are available at, where you can view each swab’s specific properties to make the best selection for your business.

If you’re still unsure on which swab is perfect for you, give our supply specialist a call and they’ll be glad to help you choose the right swab for your needs.