COVID-19 Sample Collection Kits for Upper Respiratory Tract Specimens Resource Page

March 5, 2020


Due to the recent 2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, we have been receiving many inquiries about which types of swabs, media, and kits should be used for COVID-19 sample collection prior to testing. Below we have a short guide on which COPAN products meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens for Coronavirus investigations and FDA Guidelines. All testing for SARS-CoV-2 should be conducted in consultation with a healthcare provider. This resource page is for informational purposes only. Always read the manufacturer’s package insert for specific instructions regarding specimen collection and transport for the type of test kit being used. COPAN Diagnostics, Inc. only sells through our distribution partners.


Types of Swabs Suitable for Sample Collection to Test for COVID-19

As outlined in the CDC guidelines for the collection and handling of clinical specimens suspected of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), health workers should only use synthetic fiber swabs with plastic shafts, like COPAN FLOQSwabs®. Do not use calcium alginate swabs or swabs with wooden shafts when testing for COVID-19. These swabs can contain substances that inactivate some viruses and can inhibit PCR testing [1]. According to the FDA, “sample collection with a flocked swab, when available, is preferred.” 

For initial diagnostic testing, CDC recommends collecting and testing an upper respiratory specimen or a lower respiratory tract specimen. A nasopharyngeal specimen is the preferred choice for upper respiratory swab-based sample collection.

Use of Nasopharyngeal AND Oropharyngeal Swabs for COVID-19 Sample Collection and Transport of Samples

In the CDC Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens from Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the CDC is now recommending collecting only the nasopharyngeal (NP) swab. If both swabs are used, nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal (OP) specimens should be combined at collection into a single vial. OP swabs remain an acceptable specimen type. NP swabs can be used for testing asymptomatic persons. 

The CDC guidelines also direct healthcare workers to place swabs immediately into sterile tubes containing 2-3 ml of viral transport media, like COPAN UTM® Universal Transport Medium [1].

3mL UTM®, one regular FLOQSwab® (Oropharyngeal), one flexible minitip FLOQSwab® (Nasopharyngeal)

Multiple specimens from the same patient may be taken with a single swab. If more than one swab is used for collecting specimens from two different locations in the same patient, both swabs may be placed in the same vial in order to conserve collection and assay supplies.

(Read section below “Alternatives to Nasopharyngeal Flocked Swabs” if none are available) 

Alternatives to Nasopharyngeal Flocked Swabs for COVID-19 Sample Collection

In this video, Norman Sharples, COPAN Diagnostics’ CEO, discusses the different sites and swab materials available for sample collection for COVID-19 based on the FDA Guidelines as of April 1, 2020. FDA believes that a nasopharyngeal specimen is a preferred choice for swab-based SARS-CoV-2 testing.

If a nasopharyngeal specimen is not available, then any of the following are acceptable:

  • Oropharyngeal specimen collected by a healthcare professional (HCP)
  • Mid-turbinate specimen* by onsite self-collection or HCP (using a flocked tapered swab)
  • Anterior nares specimen* by onsite self-collection or HCP (using a round foam or polyester swabs).

*At this time, anterior nares and mid-turbinate specimen collection are only appropriate for symptomatic patients and both nares should be swabbed.

The situation regarding the types of sample collection kits acceptable for COVID-19 testing remains fluid. Consult the current guidance for information on sample collection systems at the FDA Medical Devices Emergency Situations – FAQs on Diagnostic Testing for SARS-CoV-2.

Alternatives to UTM® Universal Transport Media

In the absence of viral transport medium or UTM®, liquid Amies media, a medium found in COPAN ESwab™, may be used. Other solutions may also be used for viral transport when UTM® is not available. Consult the current guidance for information on alternatives for transport media at the FDA Medical Devices Emergency Situations – FAQs on Diagnostic Testing for SARS-CoV-2.

Examples of Illustrated Sampling Guides for COVID-19 Collection And Transport Systems

There are 3 recommended sample sites for both COPAN ESwab™ and UTM® Universal Transport Medium collection kits. Below are examples of guides that can be used to illustrate how to collect viral specimens, like COVID-19, from different sites. Always read the manufacturer’s package insert for specific instructions regarding specimen collection and transport for the type of test kit being used.

COPAN Pre-Packaged Sample Collection Kits and Components 

COPAN makes COVID-19 collection and transport kits that are compatible with the recommended configuration that pairs 3mL of UTM® universal viral transport medium with flocked swab(s).

Pre-packaged COVID-19 Kits

Also, Healthcare Providers can quickly assemble in-house sample collection kits and place the items in a Ziploc/Minigrip bag for distribution using the different COPAN item numbers listed in the section below.

Distributor Links & Part Numbers

In the United States, COPAN does not sell its sample collection products directly to laboratories. Our products are available through our distribution partners.  Here you will find information about recommended sample collection swabs and transport media as well as distributor part numbers.

Distributor Links

Hardy/ Healthlink Becton Dickinson (BD)DHI/ Quidel Fisher Healthcare

Distributor Part Numbers

Additional COVID-19 Resources Published by ASM

The information and research around COVID-19 are rapidly evolving. Below, we have included several resources to help stay current on the most important developments.

ASM COVID-19 Research Registry

An expert-curated collection of the latest and most significant research findings and information about COVID-19. Topics include Basic Virology, Clinical Diagnostics, Treatment, Prevention & Epidemiology.

ASM COVID-19 Tracker and Q&A

A page including general information on COVID-19, infection tracker and Q&A with Robin Patel, M.D., President of ASM, Chair of the Division of Clinical Microbiology and Director of the Infectious Diseases Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, February 14). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Guidelines for Clinical Specimens. Retrieved February 27, 2020, from

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