Surveillance Open Access
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Danish National Institute for Infectious Disease, Statens Serum Institute (SSI) developed a home-based SARS-CoV-2 surveillance system.


We wanted to determine whether a cohort of individuals performing self-administered swabs for PCR at home could support surveillance of SARS-CoV-2, including detection and assessment of new variants. We also aimed to evaluate the logistical setup.


From May to July 2022, 10,000 blood donors were invited to participate, along with their household members. Participation required performing a self-swab for 4 consecutive weeks and answering symptom questionnaires via a web app. Swabs were sent by post to SSI for PCR analysis and whole genome sequencing. After study completion, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire concerning their experience.


In total, 2,186 individuals enrolled (47.4% blood donors), and 1,333 performed self-swabbing (53.0 blood donors), of whom 48 had at least one SARS-CoV-2-positive sample. Fourteen different Omicron subvariants, primarily BA.5 subvariants, were identified by whole genome sequencing (WGS). In total, 29 of the 63 SARS-CoV-2-positive samples were taken from individuals who were asymptomatic at the time of swabbing. Participants collected 2.9 swabs on average, with varying intervals between swabs. Transmission within households was observed in only three of 25 households.


Participants successfully performed self-swabs and answered symptom questionnaires. Also, WGS analysis of samples was possible. The system can support surveillance of respiratory pathogens and also holds potential as a diagnostic tool, easing access to test for at-risk groups, while also reducing the burden on healthcare system resources.


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