Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic nasopharyngeal or nose/throat swabs (NTS) have been the primary approach for collecting patient samples for the subsequent detection of viral RNA. However, this procedure, if undertaken correctly, can be unpleasant and therefore deters individuals from providing high quality samples. To overcome these limitations other modes of sample collection have been explored. In a cohort of frontline healthcare workers we have compared saliva and gargle samples to gold-standard NTS. 93% of individuals preferred providing saliva or gargle samples, with little sex-dependent variation. Viral titres collected in samples were analysed using standard methods and showed that gargle and saliva were similarly comparable for identifying COVID-19 positive individuals compared to NTS (92% sensitivity; 98% specificity). We suggest that gargle and saliva collection are viable alternatives to NTS swabs and may encourage testing to provide better disease diagnosis and population surveillance.


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McLennan, K., Barton, E., Lang, C., Adams, I., McAllister, G., Reijns, M., Templeton, K., Johannessen, I., Leckie, A. & Gilbert, N. 2022, 'User acceptability of saliva and gargle samples for identifying COVID-19 positive high-risk workers', medRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.01.28.22270033

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Last updated: 30 September 2022
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