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Longitudinal, community-based sampling is important for understanding prevalence and transmission of respiratory pathogens. Using a minimally invasive sampling method, the FAMILY Micro study monitored the oral, nasal and hand microbiota of families for 6 months. Here, we explore participant experiences and opinions. A mixed methods approach was utilised. A quantitative questionnaire was completed after every sampling timepoint to report levels of discomfort and pain, as well as time taken to collect samples. Participants were also invited to discuss their experiences in a qualitative structured exit interview. We received questionnaires from 36 families. Most adults and children >5y experienced no pain (94% and 70%) and little discomfort (73% and 47% no discomfort) regardless of sample type, whereas children ≤5y experienced variable levels of pain and discomfort (48% no pain but 14% hurts even more, whole lot or worst; 38% no discomfort but 33% moderate, severe, or extreme discomfort). The time taken for saliva and hand sampling decreased over the study. We conducted interviews with 24 families. Families found the sampling method straightforward, and adults and children >5y preferred nasal sampling using a synthetic absorptive matrix over nasopharyngeal swabs. It remained challenging for families to fit sampling into their busy schedules. Adequate fridge/freezer space and regular sample pick-ups were found to be important factors for feasibility. Messaging apps proved extremely effective for engaging with participants. Our findings provide key information to inform the design of future studies, specifically that self-sampling at home using minimally invasive procedures is feasible in a family context.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Child, Humans, Feasibility Studies, Pain, Specimen Handling, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom