Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection in HHT patients: nasopharyngeal versus oropharyngeal swab

Fabio Pagella, Roberta Lizzio, Sara Ugolini, Giuseppe Spinozzi, Eugenia Maiorano, Patrizia Suppressa, Carlo Sabbà, Elina Matti

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

Abstract

On March 11, 2020, WHO has defined the novel coronavirus disease SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) outbreak as a pandemic that still today continues to affect much of the world. Among the reasons for the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection, there is the role of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic carriers. Therefore diagnostic testing is central to contain the global pandemic. Up to now real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction-based molecular assays for detecting SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory specimens is the current reference standard for COVID-19 diagnosis. Based on current knowledge regarding the sensitivity of the molecular test, the highest positive detection rate is from lower respiratory tract specimens; alternatively it is possible to perform a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab. Nasopharyngeal swab is the preferred choice for SARS-CoV-2 testing since it seems to have a greater sensitivity; however the procedure is not always free of complications and an epistaxis can occur. Among patients with greatest risk of massive nosebleed there are HHT patients. Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia is an autosomal dominant disease that leads to multiregional mucocutanous telangiectases and visceral arteriovenous malformations. Clinically, the presence of telangiectases in nasal mucosa is the cause of recurrent epistaxis. In HHT patients the execution of the nasopharyngeal swab can determine from little or no consequences to a massive epistaxis leading to the necessity of nasal packing generally followed by hospital admission. In HHT patients undergoing a diagnostic test to evaluate the SARS-CoV-2 infection status, especially in those patients with frequent epistaxis with a history of anemia and repeated hospitalizations, it is therefore advisable to perform an oropharyngeal swab. This, compared to the nasopharyngeal swab, exposes to a lower risk of severe nosebleeds related treatments, such as blood transfusions or invasive procedures. According to the risk-benefit assessment and based on our experience, we consider that, despite a lower diagnostic sensitivity, oropharyngeal swab is preferable to nasopharyngeal swab for the diagnosis of SARS CoV-2 infection in patients with HHT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number350
JournalOrphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Epistaxis
  • HHT
  • Nasopharyngeal swab
  • Nosebleeding
  • Oropharyngeal swab
  • RT-PCR
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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