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Posted 01/02/2023 by Centralbiohub

Procedure to collect respiratory tract infection samples from patients

Procedure to collect respiratory tract infection samples from patients

Today, respiratory tract infections (RTIs) are one of the major diseases affecting millions of global populations. It is the leading cause of hospital visits, ICU admissions, and premature mortality. But what exactly are respiratory tract infections? RTIs comprise a cluster of illnesses caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi affecting the airway tract in humans. It affects the body parts involved in breathing, such as the sinuses, throat, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Most respiratory infections are highly contagious and transmit from one person to another easily. These are mainly droplet infections spreading through contact with secretions arising during coughing, breathing, talking, sneezing, etc. Common respiratory infections are upper respiratory infections (URTIs), lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs), Tuberculosis, bacterial and viral Pneumonia, COVID-19, Influenza (Flu), bronchitis, and bronchiolitis.

Learn how to collect respiratory infection specimens:

The availability of precisely collected, well-preserved, and non-contaminated specimens is the cornerstone for laboratory testing and in-vitro diagnostic research. Testing on respiratory secretions collected from the patients is crucial for the diagnosis. Throat swabs, nasopharyngeal swabs, oropharyngeal swabs, sputum, and tracheal secretions are ideal specimens. Let's see the vital tips for collecting samples from the patient.

Specimens for respiratory tract infections are collected based on the location of infection. If the patient is suspected of URTIs, throat swabs or non pharyngeal specimens are collected to test. On the other hand, sputum or endotracheal secretions are collected from suspected patients for LRTIs. Below are the steps to follow for the collection of specimens:

Nasopharyngeal swabs:

  • Make the patient sit upright and tilt the head backward.

  • Insert the sterile swab on either nostril and rub or twist the swabs 2-2 times to stimulate the secretion. With a rotating motion, slowly withdraw against the mucosal surface of the nostril.

  • Gently remove the swab from the nostrils and place it in a screw-cap tube containing viral or bacterial transport medium.

  • Label the vial with the patient's name, specimen time, and collection date.

Throat swabs: 

  • Make the patient sit upright and tilt the head backwards. With the depressor, keep the tongue lowered.

  • Locate the tonsillar region of the throat behind the uvula and the posterior pharynx using a bright light source to look for areas of inflammation and exudate.

  • Use a calcium alginate or Dacron swab to gently rub the region to get the specimens in the swab.

  • Insert the swab into a screw-cap vial containing a viral or bacterial transport medium without contacting the cheeks, teeth, or gums.

  • Remove or break the top of the swab stick without contacting the tube, then firmly tighten the screw cap.

  • Label the sample with the patient's name, specimen time, and date of collection.


  • Instruct the patient to take a deep breath and cough up sputum directly into a sterile container with a wide mouth.

  • Avoid post nasal drip or saliva secretion. Collect at least 1 ml of saliva samples. 

  • Close the container tightly and label the sample with the patient's name, specimen time, and date of collection.

Endotracheal secretions:

  • Nasopharyngeal secretions are aspirated using a catheter attached to a vacuum source, a mucus trap, and both.

  • A syringe with a thin tubing or catheter injects a few milliliters of saline into the nose to collect the nasal aspirates. 

  • The catheter is then progressively rotated out of the way while a vacuum is applied to collect the mucus.

  • Using 3 ml of viral transport media, the catheter is flushed into a screw-cap vial after mucus has been collected from both nostrils.

  • Close the vial tightly and label the sample with the patient's name, specimen time, and date of collection.

Discover thousands of Respiratory Tract Infection biospecimens for R&D:

 Revamping newer possibilities of respiratory infection research, Central BioHub unveils the largest inventory of respiratory infection samples collected from patients worldwide. It offers a wide range of human biospecimens such as human serum and plasma, whole blood, and nasopharyngeal samples of COVID-19, bacterial pneumonia, viral pneumonia, RSV, Tuberculosis, influenza A & B, parainfluenza, and other respiratory disorders intended for biomedical and diagnostic research. All respiratory biological specimens are readily available for purchase online. Explore their inventory here to place orders for respiratory infection samples: https://centralbiohub.de/blogs/explore-respiratory-tract-infection-specimens

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