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

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Swabs

1.     Homely Inspiration

The inventor of the modern cotton swab, Polish inventor Leo Gerstenzang, was inspired at home when he saw his wife sticking cotton balls onto the ends of toothpicks, and using this tool to clean out their child’s ears. Can you imagine doing that now? The original target audience for this new product was babies, and Q-Tips were first called “Baby Gays”.

2.     Boric Acid Baths

Original cotton Q-Tips were dipped in boric acid in the factory, as an idea to promote them as personal hygiene instruments. Boric acid has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties and sterilized the swabs.

3.     Stuck on Wood

Cotton swabs were made exclusively with wooden shafts until 1958. The company bought another company that made paper sticks for candy, and used the paper shafts in their swabs. Now, swabs are made with various shaft materials, including polypropylene shaft swabs, paper shaft swabs, aluminum shaft swabs, and others.

4.     Swabbing Sailors

A swab is a piece of absorbent material on end of a shaft/stick.

Did you know the word swab comes from the 17th mid-century “swabber”, in the sense of a sailor swabbing the deck of a ship. Why did they even swab the decks? Well, loose gun powder on gun-decks (cannons!) was a significant fire hazard. Swabbing the decks with a mop (swab) dampened the powder and reduced fire risk. Regular maintenance of the decks also slowed decomposition and gave sailors something to do. (Idle hands lead to mutiny!)

5.     All Ears (But Not Really)

Cotton swabs are widely known for being used to clean out ears. However, using swabs to clean the INSIDE of your ears can actually have an opposite and detrimental effect. Improper usage can lead to compacting wax or damaging sensitive ear organs caused by pushing the swab into the ear too far. Be cautious when using swabs to clean out ears.

 

Nowadays swabs are super useful across many different fields! Swabs of various kinds are used in critical environment manufacturing, diagnostics, environmental surface sampling, food safety testing, forensics, healthcare, and pharmaceutical applications.

Modern swabs are made tough to scrub hard to reach places, or soft and gentle for use in electronics or sensitive components. Hopefully you learned something new about swabs (who knew!), and whatever your application is, we have the swab for the job.

Rayon Tip Swabs: The Better Swab

rayon tipped swabs

Swabs come in different sizes, formats, and materials. You need to pick the right kind for the job. Confused with the huge assortment of swabs available in the market? Learn about rayon tip swabs and how they’re used.

Rayon Swabs are soft and highly absorbent and a good choice for applications where cotton would not be suitable. Rayon Swabs are widely used for specimen collection.

Swabs are generally thought of as cotton wads wrapped around on one side of a small rod. Did you know that swabs are made with many different materials?  Majority of swabs used in the medical field are sterilized and often made of synthetic material for better test results without contamination. If you are investing money in a swab, one strong option to consider should definitely be rayon tip swabs.

 

The Best Swab for the Job

With so many different kinds of swabs on the market, it can be hard to know which kind is best for your particular applications. If you are concerned with clinical applications, rayon tip swabs are considered one of the best in the industry. They are available in varying sizes and formats so that they are compatible with your applications.

 

Tips on Choosing the Best Swabs

  • The shaft of the swab is very important. Make sure that it is made of the highest quality material. Generally, you will have wood, plastic or aluminum as choices. Different shafts materials offer different flexibility and traits.
  • If the application is carried out for nasopharyngeal or pediatric fields, you’ll want to use a rayon swab with an aluminum shaft that is ultra thin and highly flexible.
  • Look out for the swab bud. If it is for clinical purposes, the rayon tip swab is the best available option.

 

Why are Rayon Swabs Preferred?

  • Since one primary use is for clinics and medical fields, most of our rayon tipped swabs are wrapped individually so that there is no contamination and the medical results are accurate.
  • The tips of the rayon swabs are made of the top notch quality USP grade rayon fiber.
  • They are easily disposable and most are sterile.
  • Rayon swabs are available with either wooden, plastic, or aluminum shafts and you have the option to choose.

 

Try Out Rayon Swabs

A rayon tip swab is also considered the best for gynecological cell collection and for research work. In fact, they are without any odor or taste and thereby ideal for food industries as well. Overall, it could be said that rayon swabs are better in most cases than other alternative options like cotton.

Like Mom always said, you won’t know until you try it. Try out rayon tipped swabs in your applications and see the difference today.

 

If you need assistance selecting the right swab for your needs just get in touch and we’ll be glad to help.

View our selection of rayon tipped swabs here.

Harmony Business Supplies

Swabbing For Trace Evidence VS Swabbing For Fluids

evidence and fluid swabbing

When it comes to sample collection there are two very different types. One is swabbing for blood or bodily fluids, the other is collecting trace evidence. It is important to note that while collecting fluid almost always involves using  a swab on  a visible portion piece of evidence, collecting trace evidence isn’t  always that straight forward. In this context, we must discuss forensic swabs.

 

Forensic Swabs

When it comes to trace evidence, methods of collection may involve the use of several other tools such as tape, sterilized needle-nose tweezers and dry transport systems. The swab comes in handy when collecting touch DNA from skin cells, fingerprints, or gunshot residue as well as explosions, arson.

 

Trace evidence with a swab is still different from when a swab is used to collect blood, semen and other bodily fluids.

 

Choosing The Right Kind of Swab

When choosing the right kind of swab, it is strongly suggested to choose DNA-Controlled Swabs.

These are swabs that are most specifically labeled DNA-Free Swabs or DNA-controlled. This translates to these being absolutely free of any human contaminants like DNA, DNase, and RNase which would compromise the sample. Always choose DNA-Free Swabs.

 

Among DNA-Controlled Swabs, the DNA-controlled flocked swab has proved to be popular because of its its unique micro structure. This micro structure makes it a better alternative to the standard cotton swab. Basically,  DNA controlled flocked swab by virtue of its structure can collect, retain and elute specimen the best. This makes it perfect for PCR, molecular assays, DNA testing and direct antigen testing.

 

However, this does not meant that the DNA- controlled cotton tipped swab in unacceptable. In cases where a large sample is needed and advance collection and elution needs are not there, a sterile and DNA controlled cotton tipped swab with a wooden or polystyrene handle is quite acceptable.

 

When DNA collection at a crime scene is undertaken, a comparison sample is a must. This helps in elimination of suspects leading to ultimate identification.. This is achieved by drawing the sample from the buccal cells from inside the cheek. This is buccal cell collection. It is recommended that foam tipped or cotton tipped swabs are used for this type of cell collection.

For instance, if the sample has to be moved to FTA cards, a large, round foam-tipped swab is ideal. With an extra large tip, this swab type provides extra surface area for maximum sample collection and preservation and minimizes discomfort. Alternatively if there is no requirement to transfer the sample to FTA cards, the sterile medical grade cotton swab with its own dry transport tube is perfect.

 

When it comes to trace evidence such as gunshot residue or touch DNA, sample size and sample type determines the decision on type of swab. For small samples the flocked swab with its unique precision and absorption capabilities come in handy and for large samples foam swabs work best.

 

The above thus covers most on forensic swabs and is sure to help choose the best swab for the requirement.

 

Shop our quality selection of Forensic Swabs and Sterile Swabs.

harmony