Dr. John Berberian Explains Why Testing for COVID-19 is Different From Testing for Most Viruses

John Berberian Atlanta

December 22, 2021

Dr. John Berberian Explains Why Testing for COVID-19 is Different From Testing for Most Viruses

Even now that vaccines against COVID-19 are readily available, COVID-19 testing remains a vital service in the fight to stop the virus’s spread. According to medical testing expert Dr. John Berberian, though, testing for COVID-19 continues to present unique challenges compared to testing for most other types of viruses.

The first COVID-19 testing challenge that Dr. John Berberian points out is the fact that COVID-19 variants such as the Delta variant don’t always show up on our tests. While current tests are not completely incapable of detecting COVID-19 variants, the CDC has warned that these tests may sometimes produce false-negative results when the patient being tested is infected with a variant of the virus.

What really makes testing for COVID-19 different from testing for most viruses, though, is the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 to bury itself deep within a patient’s nasal cavities. According to Dr. John Berberian, this attribute of the virus can make it difficult to detect with standard traditional oropharyngeal swabs. Since oropharyngeal swabs are often unable to reach far enough into the nasal cavities to collect a sample from where the virus is actually present, using oropharyngeal swabs for COVID-19 testing can sometimes lead to false-negative results.

Thankfully, Dr. John Berberian points out that there is a simple and effective solution to this problem: NPS swabs. NPS swabs are thinner and longer than oropharyngeal swabs, enabling them to reach deeper up into a patient’s nasal cavities where the SARS-CoV-2 virus likes to hide. NPS swabs also feature a non-abrasive design and plenty of lubrication to ensure patient comfort since they are designed for deeper penetration that would otherwise be a highly uncomfortable experience.

Many COVID-19 testing facilities have already adopted NPS swabs as the go-to choice for COVID-19 testing. However, Dr. John Berberian says that the number of facilities still relying on oropharyngeal swabs does create some cause for concern.

The potential for oropharyngeal swabs to produce false-negative results when testing for COVID-19 is something that Dr. John Berberian argues that the healthcare industry should take more seriously. In far more ways than one, SARS-CoV-2 differs from viruses we have dealt with in the past, and one of those differences is the fact that it can be difficult to detect. By using NPS swabs, though, Dr. John Berberian says that the healthcare facilities responsible for providing COVID-19 testing can dramatically reduce the likelihood of false-negative results.