- COVID-19 at-home tests were scarce as the Omicron variant spread throughout the US.
- Some families desperate to save tests used the same swab to test everyone, the Atlantic reported.
- Health experts warn that it’s gross and could spread the coronavirus and other germs.
As the Omicron variant swept through the country, COVID-19 at home rapid tests were in high demand and hard to come by – so some desperate families decided to test multiple people with one swab, the Atlantic reported.
Public health experts, however, warn that the method may not yield accurate results and called sharing mucus with others “unsafe” and “gross.”
“From a public-health perspective, the idea of sticking swabs up each other’s noses doesn’t sound like a great thing to do,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Atlantic.
Elena Korngold, a radiologist told the publication that late last month she first used a swab from a BinaxNOW test in her nostrils before passing the swab to her husband, who swabbed his own nostrils. The couple’s two kids then swabbed their own nostrils.
They then tested that sample, which came back negative.
The Atlantic reported that the method draws inspiration from pool PCR testing, which is normally done at schools like Northeastern University or large institutions like hospitals. The method takes individually provided samples from asymptomatic people which are then combined to run as one test. If that test comes back positive, each individual sample would then be tested.
However, experts told the Atlantic that pool PCR testing was designed to accommodate multiple samples, whereas at-home tests work are meant for just one sample.
However, Susan Butler-Wu, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, told the Atlantic that combining samples from multiple people in an at-home test could dilute the virus sample, which is needed for the test to work.
It’s not just whether or not this creative testing method would work to pick up a COVID-19 case, health experts said. The chance of someone spreading COVID-19 to a house member is between 15% and 35% but Nuzzo told the Atlantic that this “intranasal promiscuity” could further spread not just the coronavirus, but other germs as well.