Skin Swabs Could Be Used to Rapidly Identify COVID-19 Infection

Dawn O'Shea

March 19, 2021

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Researchers at the University of Surrey have found that non-invasive skin swab samples may be enough to detect COVID-19.

In a study published by Lancet EClinicalMedicine, sebum samples were collected from 67 hospitalised patients (30 were COVID-19 positive and 37 were COVID-19 negative) by gauze swab. Lipidomics analysis was carried out using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry, identifying 998 reproducible features.

The results show that lipid levels were depressed in COVID-19-positive participants, indicative of dyslipidemia; P=.022 and P=.015 for triglycerides and ceramides, respectively, with effect sizes of 0.44 and 0.57.

Partial least squares-discriminant analysis showed the separation of COVID-19-positive and COVID-19-negative participants, with sensitivity of 57 per cent and specificity of 68 per cent, improving to 79 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively, when controlled for confounding comorbidities.

The authors say, given that sebum samples can be provided quickly and painlessly, sebum is worthy of future consideration for clinical sampling.

Matt Spick, co-author of the study from the University of Surrey, said: "COVID-19 damages many areas of metabolism. In this work, we show that the skin lipidome can be added to the list, which could have implications for the skin's barrier function, as well as being a detectable symptom of the disease itself."


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