Changing from Clinician-Collected to Self-Collected Throat Swabs for Oropharyngeal Gonorrhea and Chlamydia Screening among Men Who Have Sex with Men

Eric P.F. Chow, Catriona S. Bradshaw, Deborah A. Williamson, Shauna Hall, Marcus Y. Chen, Tiffany R. Phillips, Ria Fortune, Kate Maddaford, Christopher K. Fairley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led many clinics to move from clinician-collected to self-collected oropharyngeal swabs for the detection of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Before this change, however, self-collection was used primarily for genital and anorectal infections, with only limited studies on the performance of self-collection of oropharyngeal swabs for oropharyngeal STI detection. The Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (MSHC) changed from clinician-collected to self-collected oropharyngeal swabs for oropharyngeal gonorrhea and chlamydia screening on 16 March 2020 in order to reduce health care worker risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. We compared the proportions of valid and positive samples for gonorrhea and chlamydia among men who have sex with men (MSM) in two time periods; the clinician collection period, between 20 January and 15 March 2020, and the self-collection period, between 16 March and 8 May 2020. A total of 4,097 oropharyngeal swabs were included. The proportion of oropharyngeal swabs with equivocal or invalid results for Neisseria gonorrhoeae was higher in the self-collection period (1.6% [24/1,497]) than in the clinician collection period (0.9% [23/2,600]) (P = 0.038), but the proportions did not differ for the detection of Chlamydia trachomatis The positivity rates of oropharyngeal N. gonorrhoeae (adjusted prevalence ratio [PR], 1.07 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 0.85 to 1.34]) (P = 0.583) and oropharyngeal C. trachomatis (adjusted PR, 0.84 [95% CI, 0.51 to 1.39]) (P = 0.504) specimens did not differ between the two periods. Self-collected oropharyngeal swabs for the detection of N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis have acceptable performance characteristics and, importantly, reduce health care worker exposure to respiratory infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1220
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Chlamydia trachomatis
  • detection
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • performance
  • pharyngeal
  • sampling
  • sexually transmitted disease
  • sexually transmitted infection
  • testing

Cite this