Can Self-taken Swabs Track Pandemic’s Hidden Patterns?

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Regular swabbing of a random sample of the population quickly detects the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 infections, says an article on Nature.

What the study says

Steven Riley and Paul Elliott at Imperial College London and their colleagues tested nose and throat samples from 594,000 randomly selected UK residents, who swabbed themselves or their children between 1 May and 8 September 2020. The study found that, during that time, the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate dipped as low as 0.04% in the tested population — down from around 5% in early 2020 at the height of the United Kingdom’s first wave — and then began climbing to a peak of about 0.13% in the final round of testing.

Increased socializing drove the spread

Prevalence rates early in the second wave were highest among young adults aged 18–24, at 0.25%, compared with 0.04% among those aged 65 and older. This suggests that increased socializing by younger people probably drove the resurgence. These age patterns were not reflected in data from routine surveillance at health-service providers, which underestimated infection rates in younger age groups.

The researchers say that their study demonstrates the benefit of large-scale community testing in providing an early warning of spikes in infections, even at low levels of transmission.

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Source: Nature

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