Baylor moves to more comfortable coronavirus test

A student prepares to take a COVID-19 test in Tent Four on Fountain Mall. Chase Li | Photographer

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

COVID-19 testing sites on campus, administered by My Labs Direct and the Health Center, have recently switched to more comfortable mid-nasal swabs.

Those chosen for surveillance testing this week received an email that said “based on feedback, the university has shifted to a more comfortable nasal swab to collect test samples and not the more extended, nasopharyngeal swab.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists a nasopharyngeal (NP) specimen and a nasal mid-turbinate swab under their acceptable specimen to test for COVID-19. Baylor University Health Services Medical Director Dr. Sharon Stern said the My Labs Direct testing has been approved for either mid-nasal or nasopharyngeal (the extended) swabs.

“From what I understand, the tent testing from My Labs Direct are using flocked swabs which are softer and are using the mid-turbinate method which goes to the middle of the nose but not as high as the other test,” Stern said.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab takes a sample from deep in the nose or throat to test for the presence of the viral genetic material. This is the only test available on campus. However, Stern said they are constantly researching alternative testing methods, as they know the nasal swabs are unpleasant.

COVID-19 Testing: PCR, Antigen, and Antibody Tests Explained by The Texas Department of State and Health Services organized the differences in the three types of tests, PCR, antibody, and antigen tests into a chart.

According to the chart, PCR tests look for traces of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the nose, throat, or other areas in the respiratory tract to identify an active infection, but cannot detect an infection in the past. While PCR and antigen tests take a nasal or throat swab, antibody tests take a blood sample but can’t detect an active infection.

Laredo sophomore Sofia Briones was selected for surveillance testing last week. She has been tested two other times and said she anticipated a worse experience.

“I thought that this swab was better than my previous one,” Briones said. “I was a little scared to get tested because based on my experience, I knew that it was uncomfortable. I was so surprised when this swab was a lot more gentle.”