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.

 

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 HarmonyCR.com, 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.

 

Swabs & Applicators 101

Swabs & Applicators 101

What are Swabs & Applicators?

If you’ve used a Q-Tip, you already know what a swab basically is. However, there are many more uses and variations of Swabs & Applicators (AKA single-use applicators). Learn about swab tips and shaft materials, and their uses.

In general a swab is:

A small piece of absorbent material attached to the end of a stick/shaft or wire, and used for cleaning a surface, applying medicine/chemicals, or collecting a sample of a substance.

Uses for Swabs

Common uses for swabs and applicators include: cleaning hard to reach areas, applying solvents/chemicals, wound cleaning, applying medicine, collecting samples.

Single-use swabs are widely used in healthcare, diagnostic, forensic, controlled environments (cleanrooms), food safety, and drug manufacturing industries.

Swab Tip Materials

Swabs tips come in many different materials. Here are some of the most common swab tip materials.

Cotton Tip Swabs

Our cotton tip swabs are made with top pharmaceutical grade spun cotton fiber. Cotton fiber swabs are absorbent, soft, low cost, and safe for many applications. If you require low-lint for your application, cotton swabs are available in low-lint options or standard.

Whether you require 3 inch cotton swabs, 6 inch cotton swabs, or double tip cotton swabs (twice the bang for your buck!) we are sure to have the cotton swab you need.

Polyester Tip Swabs

Polyester is a synthetic fiber. Polyester tip swabs are non-absorbent. Polyester swabs also contain no fatty acids or latent sugars. This is important in the collection of specimens for testing.

Polyester swabs are a good medium for cell collection, screenings, and testing. Ideal for use in microbiology, rapid test diagnostics, and industrial surface testing.

Foam Tip Swabs

Foam swabs are made of soft, non-abrasive polyurethane foam. Foam swabs are lint and residue free. They won’t leave anything behind. Foam swabs are also shred-resistant and perfect for cleaning applications.

The foam tips are thermally bonded to the shaft, so there is no glue or bonding agents in the swab that could contaminate your environment. Foam swabs are soft enough for delicate cleaning but not too soft that they bend or fold.

Rayon Tip Swabs

Rayon is a semisynthetic fiber material made from cellulose. Rayon swabs are soft, highly absorbent and ideal for applications where cotton wouldn’t be suitable.

Rayon is low-linting. Rayon swabs are widely used in specimen collection, testing, and screening.

Flocked Tip Swabs

Flocked swabs have a unique tip structure and construction. Flocked tip swabs are comprised of multi-length fibers arranged around the applicator handle. This brush-like structure assures ultra-clean tips and reliable performance.

Unlike traditional wound fiber swabs, flocked swabs have no internal core to absorb and trap collected specimens. Flocked swabs have superior collection and release characteristics which make them ideal for specimen collection and testing purposes.

The process starts with producing the swab fiber, composed of a unique porous microchannel “fiber-within-fiber” design structure. The swab fiber is then applied to tips to produce a versatile, high-performance brush-like swab without an inner fabric or core to collect specimens. Further proprietary manufacturing processes result in multi-length, “split-end” fibers that create a greater overall surface area and tension for more rapid elution and maximal sample preservation. Scientific studies have confirmed Puritan flocked swabs provide the most efficient collection and elution on the market.

Microfiber Tip Swabs

Microfiber swabs are highly resistant to normal cleaning solvents, which make them perfect for removing contaminants and excess materials.

Microfiber tip swabs are soft, non-abrasive (wont scratch delicate surfaces!), and has excellent wipe/dry characteristics lending itself to cleaning applications.

Swab Shaft Materials

Depending your application, there are different types of swab shaft materials you should use.

Wood Shaft Swabs

Economical and rigid, these shafts do the job for many applications.  The down side?  Wood is a natural material with variations in moisture content and fracturing is possible.

Wood dust from these shafts is minimal, but in areas where particulates is a problem, wood should not be used.

Paper Shaft Swabs

Non-linting and non-conductive, these clean, white shafts are good for use in controlled environments.

Semi-rigid, they will not fracture in use, but if bent will not return to the original shape.  Paper shaft swabs cannot be sterilized by autoclaving.

Polypropylene Shaft Swabs

Very clean and non-absorbent with no particulate to shed.

Can be rigid or semi-flexible and resistant to breakage.  This plastic material will stand up to many chemicals.  Autoclaving to 250 degrees F is OK.

Polystyrene Shaft Swabs

Economical plastic shafts can be hollow or solid. Also very clean and non-absorbent, non-dusting.

Depending on the composition can fracture as needed, or be flexible for use in tight spaces.  Suitable for use with IPA. More rigid than polypropylene. This material is suited for applicators with scored break points, providing a clean break.      

Aluminum Shaft Swabs

Slender and flexible but once bent will retain the angle for precise cleaning.

Clean with no particulates, but conductive.  For medical applications, slender dimension is desirable.

Additional Types of Swabs

Anti-Static & ESD Swabs

ESD swabs have anti-static properties that make them safe for working with static-sensitive components. Anti-Static & ESD-Safe Swabs are ideal for precision cleaning, sampling, validation, and more.

ESD swabs have special antistatic handles that make them ideal for use in cleanrooms and other static-sensitive environments. We offer ESD/Anti-Static swabs that are foam tipped, polyester tipped, cotton tipped, and nonwoven tipped with anti-static attributes.

Transport Swabs

There are primarily two types of transport swabs. Dry transport swabs consist of a dry swab and transport tube or cap. Media Transport Swabs are a vial of transport medium liquid and dry swab. This “wet” transport swab keeps collected specimens suspended in a liquid medium for testing.

Both Dry Transport and Media Transport Swabs are used for collection and/or transportation of a wide range of specimens (including: bacteria, viruses, microorganisms, trace evidence, DNA, and more). The transport tube/vial contains the specimen and provides safe and stable transport.

Environmental Surface Testing Swabs

Environmental Sampling and Surface Testing swabs are used for industries in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics. Surface Testing Swabs are designed for sample collection and validation of hard to reach areas. Surface testing swabs are used to test for contamination and chemicals on surfaces.

Environmental Sampling Kits consist of a polyester tipped swab and polypropylene vial for transport with broth/solution/buffer liquid.

Medical/Sterile Swabs

Sterile/Medical Swabs have a wide range of uses. Our sterile medical swabs are offered in Rayon and Cotton, available in a variety of head shapes. Handle options include wood, plastic and biodegradable paper.

Sterile Swabs are wrapped and always fresh. Ideal for medical applications such as wound care, surgery, diagnostic testing, DNA testing, Gynecological OB/GYN screening, and more.

Wood Applicators

Wood Applicators include applicator sticks, cuticle/orange sticks, and wood medical spoons. Disposable wooden applicators are often used for specimen transfer, as mixing rods, in laboratory work, and other general purpose applications.

Our wood applicators are made with straight-cut splinter-free ends. Wood Applicator Sticks come with different bevels, points, or straight edges depending on your use need. Wood applicator sticks are biodegradable and available sterile or non-sterile.

Critical Environment (Cleanroom) Swabs

You can’t use any old swab in a Cleanroom. Critical Environment Swabs are precision manufactured, ensuring the swabs eliminate contamination and provide consistent cleanliness. Critical Environment Swabs are available in materials such as cotton, microfiber, knitted polyester, and anti-static/ESD.

Cleanroom Swabs are designed for effectively cleaning small surfaces in controlled environments and other critical environment applications. Cleanroom swabs are widely used in industries such as healthcare, diagnostics, fiber optics, electronics, semiconductors, and more.

 

When it comes to swabs and applicators, there are a lot of variations to consider depending on your usage case. With so many options we know it can get a little overwhelming. But don’t worry! We’re here to help.

If you’re not sure exactly what you need, we are available to help via Phone, Chat, or Email. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions selecting the right swab for you and your application.

Forensic Swabs

Updated 12/1/16

No field requires as much precision as in forensic investigations. The data collected is a major factor in investigations, and how the data is collected plays a role in the accuracy of that data. DNA-Free and RNase-Free Forensic Swabs must cleanly and accurately collect samples while being certified DNA free and 100% sterile to avoid any cross contamination. Swabs are usually individually wrapped to stay fresh and to easily be transported after collection.

Forensic professionals rely on high quality swabs for clean and accurate sampling. Our collection forensic sampling swabs have been independently certified to be DNA-free at a threshold lower than any other swabs on the market today.

There are different types of DNA free forensic swabs to choose from, each with different specific focuses. Each swab features a soft, smooth, and absorbent tip. The swabs are manufactured to be medical grade and are ideal for crime scene investigations, buccal cell collection, and general specimen collection.

Foam tipped swab:

  • Large surface area for maximum cell collection
  • Ideal for swabbing the inner cheek and all buccal cell collection

Ultra Flocked Swab:

  • Unique fiber structure is designed for maximum cell yield
  • Ideal for conditions in which sample size is limited

Cotton Tipped Swab:

  • Manufactured with U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) grade cotton
  • Ideal for collection blood and buccal collection
  • A true multi-purpose forensic swab

We have a wide selection and sometimes picking out the right swab for the job can be a little challenging. If you have any questions about what swab is right for your application, please reach out to us and our product experts will be glad to help you!

Harmony Business Supplies