"They stick these swabs up your nose. When I say up your nose, I'm talking way further up your nose than I knew the nose ever goes. I have a new understanding of my face now," said personal finance podcaster Paula Pant of getting the COVID-19 test. "It's an incredibly, incredibly awkward test."

Soon, however, those seeking to find out whether they have caught the coronavirus may not have to learn the hard way that their nasal passages travel halfway to their brain. The Food and Drug Administration has endorsed a new type of spun synthetic swab developed by U.S. Cotton, a subsidiary of privately held Parkdale-Mills, that can effectively collect samples closer to the front of the nose.

A study led by UnitedHealth Group (UNH 1.61%) in conjunction with Quantigen and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation showed that when patients self-administered the swab to the front part of the nostril and mid-nose, they collected samples that allowed tests to successfully detect the coronavirus.  The study also validated the use of readily available saline solution to transport the samples rather than traditional viral transport media, which are in short supply.

Man getting a nasal swab by a healthcare worker

Image source: Getty Images.

Last month, UnitedHealth released a study showing that people could effectively collect their own COVID-19 test samples, but that was using foam swabs, which aren't as readily available as polyester swabs.

"We appreciate the work of these collaborators to consider how these test supplies could be broadly distributed to meet not only the testing needs of the United States but also global needs around the pandemic. All of these actions by these American organizations will help continue to expand our testing capability," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.