medRxiv. 2020 Sep 1:2020.08.30.20183889. doi: 10.1101/2020.08.30.20183889. Preprint.
BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus (SARS-CoV-2) is challenging global public health, due to an increasing demand for testing and the shortage of diagnostic supplies. Nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) is considered the optimal sample for SARS-CoV2 diagnosis and sputum (SPT) has been proposed as an economic alternative. However, the temporal concordance of diagnosis in NPS and SPT has not been addressed.
METHODS: Through a longitudinal study we compared the shedding dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 RNA evaluated by RT-qPCR in serially collected SPT and NPS obtained from 82 ambulatory and hospitalized patients during acute infection and convalescence. The concordance during the follow-up and cost analysis between both collected specimens was evaluated.
FINDINGS: We analyzed 379 samples, 177 NPS and 202 SPT. The highest proportion of positive samples was detected within the first 15 days after the symptoms onset. The median time of positivity was higher for NPS (median= 25 days) than SPT (median= 21 days). There was no significant difference in the median RT-qPCR CT values between both sample types. The temporal categorization of matched-paired samples indicated substantial correlation (r=0.6023) and substantial agreement (87.23%) during the first ten days since symptoms onset (kappa = 0.697). A cost analysis demonstrated a significant saving when the SPT specimen was used.
INTERPRETATION: Sputum is a feasible and cost-saving alternative to NPS, providing an equivalent value for the detection and follow-up of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.