The role of mouthwash sampling in SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis

Asaf Biber, Dana Lev*, Michal Mandelboim, Yaniv Lustig, Geva Harmelin, Amit Shaham, Oran Erster, Eli Schwartz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The current practice of COVID-19 diagnosis worldwide is the use of oro-nasopharyngeal (ONP) swabs. Our study aim was to explore mouthwash (MW) as an alternative diagnostic method, in light of the disadvantages of ONP swabs. Methods: COVID-19 outpatients molecular-confirmed by ONP swab were repeatedly examined with ONP swab and MW with normal saline (0.9%). Other types of fluids were compared to normal saline. The Cq values obtained with each method were compared. Results: Among 137 pairs of ONP swabs and MW samples, 84.6% (116/137) of ONP swabs were positive by at least one of the genes (N, E, R). However MW detected 70.8% (97/137) of samples as positive, which means 83.6% (97/116) out of positive ONP swabs, missing mainly Cq value > 30. In both methods, the N gene was the most sensitive one. Therefore, MW samples targeting N gene, which was positive in 95/137 (69.3%), are comparable to ONP swabs targeting E and R genes which gave equal results—95/137 (69.3%) and 90/137 (65.7%), respectively. Comparing saline MW to distilled water gave equal results, while commercial mouth-rinsing solutions were less sensitive. Conclusions: MW with normal saline, especially when tested by N gene, can effectively detect COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, this method was not inferior when compared to R and E genes of ONP swabs, which are common targets in many laboratories around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2199-2206
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Gargling
  • Mouth rinse
  • Saliva
  • Throat-wash


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