The success of the SARS-CoV-2 detection and diagnosis depends largely on the quality of the patient sample specimen and the conditions under which it is transported to the clinic or testing labs for processing. The swabs and viral transport medium (VTM) market is continuously expanding around the globe. This transport is optimally managed by the utilization of Viral Transport Medium (VTM) (Previously, used in the form of tissue culture medium and glycerol transport medium) which provides safe maintenance of the COVID19 viral samples for further clinical research and diagnosis. For home collection of the patient samples, various swabs (e.g., deep nasal swabs, nasopharyngeal swabs, combined nasal and throat swabs) are used by professional healthcare workers and these swabs (after collection) are incubated and transported immersed in the VTM for safe maintenance and viability of the viral specimen.

Types of Swabs in COVID-19

COVID-19 Test Swab Types Procedure for Swabs
Standard Testing Nasopharyngeal Swabs
  • Gently advance the swab straight and down along the nasal floor into the nasopharynx until any hindrance is felt.
  • Spin swab 4-5 times for ~10 seconds. 
  • Withdraw and place the swab into VTM.
Point of Care Testing Foam Tipped Deep Nasal Swabs or combined Nasal and Throat Swabs
  • Insert the nasal swab into the nostril with more drainage or congestion.
  • Gently insert swab until any hindrance is felt near the level of the nasal turbinates.
  • Rotate the swab against the nasal wall 4-5 times and gently remove swab.
  • Using the same swab, repeat sample collection in the other nostril.
  • Perform point of care test immediately in the clinic.

The global swabs and viral transport medium (VTM) market was valued at a price of USD 0.9 billion in the year 2019 and has been projected to expand at a cumulative average rate of around 3% from 2020 to 2030 due to the increased demand of COVID-19 healthcare business all over the world. Although several countries have declared their population to be free of COVID-19 with regularized govt. policies being practiced, countries like the USA and India are still seeing a rise in the numbers of COVID-19 infected patients as the ‘unlock’ protocols and norms started being practiced after long intermittent periods of lockdown.

The rapid antigen testing models and point of care testing for COVID-19 have further fueled the demand for ready-made, easy to use viral transport medium kits and swabs during this coronavirus pandemic period and therefore an apparent shortage is visible in some countries over the world. Moreover, a specific shortage in swabs is quite evident owing to the unique customized swab designs required for specified collection purposes, thus impacting the market growth. Challenges in raw material supply chains, such as for swab material, plastic tubes, and reagents, are also on a rise in the hospital and clinic scenario for accessing a hefty quantity of swabs and viral transport medium kits in order to keep pace with the rising demands of COVID-19 testing. Since the declaration of vaccines reaching their phase 3 of clinical trials, research labs, and healthcare clinics have also increased their research on COVID-19 on a clinical basis and this has also added to the shortage of the kits and swabs. 

Even though it seems that the supply is stalled and is unable to cope up with the demands of and swabs and Viral Transport Medium, this demand surge has only led to the increased production capacities for developing products in the field of viral collection and transport and instead of settling for a decline in VTM market, several countries are gearing themselves up for creating incremental opportunities in companies working on producing swabs and VTM kits by the end of 2020. 

Companies all over the world, who are involved in the swabs and Viral Transport Medium market, are rapidly innovating in terms of cheaper and better Viral Transport Medium (VTM) vial materials, double-ended flocked and foamed sterile swabs, antibiotics, and other chemical/mechanical items that might ensure the enhancement of the industry. Researchers in the development sector of several companies are focusing on improved buffer formulation to sustain viral viability and inhibit bacterial/fungal contamination. Some companies are also hinting at cheaper swab handles, produced using 3D printers. Innovative VTM products are therefore bolstering and fueling up the VTM market growth and VTM manufacturers around the world are therefore looking ahead towards a good business market instead of worrying about the global product shortage in the swabs and Viral Transport Medium industry.