National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced the results of its paediatric Covid-19 testing study on school-aged children with age-appropriate instructions.

The study could have immediate implications for Covid-19 testing in children by using a nasal swab to obtain their own Covid-19 test specimens.

It also offered evidence to support suggestions for self-swabbing that schools and other places where kids take the test can use.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Tech programme, the study was led by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

At locations in the Atlanta region, the team’s study was carried out in July and August 2021 with the participation of 197 kids who had Covid-19 symptoms.

Prior to self-swabbing, the kids were given a hand-out with written directions and illustrations and a 90-second instructional film made for young viewers.

The kids next swabbed their noses, making four rotations against the inside of each nostril, about one centimetre deep.

Additionally, the healthcare worker next swabbed each child’s individual nostril with a second swab to acquire a sample which was sent to the laboratory received for PCR testing.

The self-collected and professionally obtained swabs agreed 98.1% of the time for a negative result and 97.8% of the time for a positive result.

According to the data, 44% of symptomatic children who tested positive for Covid-19 were found using both collection methods.

Children under the age of eight years were more likely than children aged more than eight years to require assistance, such as more training, before correctly completing self-collection (21.8% versus 6.1%).

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering director Bruce Tromberg said: “Having adults collect swab samples from kids is not a trivial matter in schools and other group settings.

“The study data may surprise some and will reassure others that children as young as four years old can follow simply presented instructions and collect their own nasal specimen for Covid-19 testing.”

The RADx initiative was launched to speed innovation in the development, commercialisation, and implementation of technologies for Covid-19 testing.