Throat swab would be better to detect Omicron variant, says Van Ranst

Throat swab would be better to detect Omicron variant, says Van Ranst
Credit: Belga

A self-test in people’s throats instead of their noses would be better to detect the Omicron variant in its early stages as new research shows that it reaches the throat before it is detectable in the nose.

A new study shows that a nose swab is not the most efficient way to test whether someone is infected with the Omicron variant, virologist Marc Van Ranst told VTM News.

“The Omicron variant is first detected in the throat and only later in the nose,” he said. “If you only test in the nose, there is a chance that you will miss infections.”

Van Ranst said that during the holiday season, a lot of people used self-test nose swabs before gathering. “That is good. Many people who tested positive were able to adjust their behaviour. If the disease process has been going on for a while, a nose swab is perfect.”

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He added that a nose swab combined with one in the throat gives a higher chance of detecting the virus as soon as it shows up. Currently, Australia and England are the only countries where the Government advises that approach: first a swab in the throat, then one in the nose.

However, not all self-tests are made for both throat and nose, says the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) in Belgium, but manufacturers are currently working on self-tests that are suitable for both.

“You cannot just use a self-test intended for use in the nose in the throat. You should always follow the steps in the manual, otherwise there is an increased risk of an unreliable result,” Olivier Christiaens of the FAMHP told Het Laatste Nieuws.

While a combined test would also give better results, virologist Steven Van Gucht stressed that it is premature to start using throat swabs now. “The first study is there, but I would like to see some more first,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.

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