The Genetic Link

Welcome to The Genetic Link, a blog providing new insights into DNA and RNA sample collection by DNA Genotek. DNA Genotek is a subsidiary of OraSure Technologies, Inc.

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Article by: Katherine Lawless

While social distancing, reaching donors shouldn’t be an issue


Governments and public health experts have advised almost everyone to stay home. The majority of the population is now working from home, while businesses and institutions are searching for alternatives in an effort to keep things as close to “business as usual”. It is important to stay safe and stay home and we understand that continuing your research work may be difficult – but it doesn’t have to be.

For many projects, collecting genomic and/or microbiome samples has been placed on hold since everyone must remain at home and in-person collection is almost impossible. At DNA GenotekTM we offer flexible options for at-home self-collection of many sample types for genomic, microbiome and infectious diseases applications, allowing you to collect biological samples from donors without breaking the rules of social distancing.

Easy at-home self-collection for all ages

Home-based sample collection methods are becoming an increasingly popular way to obtain samples for research when social distancing is required.

Our Oragene® and ORAcollect® product lines allow donors to collect saliva-based genomic samples while our OMNIgene® product family facilitates collection of multiple sample types for microbiome analysis.  

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, donors would routinely have traveled to clinics or hospitals to provide saliva, stool, urine or blood samples. Since saliva has been proven to perform equivalently on downstream applications when compared to blood[1], donors do not need to make an unnecessary trip to the clinic or hospital to provide a biological sample for DNA or RNA analysis.  Similarly, collection of microbiome fecal samples with OMNIgene·GUT has been proven to be equivalent to a fresh/frozen sample in terms of microbial profile composition, stability over time and reproducibility[2]. Donors can simply collect saliva or stool from the comfort of their own home.

This reduces the burden on healthcare personnel who normally would need to be present or assist with collecting the biological samples from patients, allowing them to focus on other priorities.

Easy to follow donor collection instructions for all ages

With validated collection instructions, our self-collection kits provide simple and intuitive step-by-step instructions promoting high donor compliance.

Fecal sample collection

Using OMNIgene·GUT helps reduce the ‘ick’ factor from collecting fecal samples compared to other methods such as collecting stool samples in a plastic container and then keeping that sample in your home freezer. The OMNIgene·GUT collection instructions are intuitive, tested on naïve users, and with a provided spatula and options for a flushable toilet accessory and/or a spoon, OMNIgene·GUT makes at-home fecal sample collection easy. (Read the blog, is there a new gold-standard for gut microbiome stool collection? to learn more).

Through various external and internal studies, we were able to observe that elderly donors had an average of 97% user compliance for OMNIgene·GUT[3]. In collaboration with a group at UCLA, stool samples from infants aged 3-26 were collected from diapers (by the parent) into OMNIgene·GUT with a 93% overall usability score.

Saliva sample collection

Based on data obtained from a saliva collection usability study involving 122 naïve, adult, general population donors receiving a direct to consumer kit, 96.5% of donors agreed or strongly agreed that the instructions were easy to understand, 96% of donors understood how to collect their saliva samples properly and 99.5% of donors understood how to send the sample back to the laboratory. [4]

DNA Genotek offers sample collection kits tailored for individuals of all ages, from infants to elders. For example, it can be challenging to collect biological samples from newborns and babies as saliva production is slow to develop, however, ORAcollect for Pediatrics is uniquely designed to collect as much saliva as possible from infants because it uses an absorbent sponge.

“Babies mouths are often dry and dehydrated, and obtaining DNA through a needle poke is distressing as everyone knows. Thus blood and whole saliva samples were not practical. With the older method of using a cytobrush, we would get high bacterial contamination, frequently failing to produce adequate sequencing results. The quality of DNA and ease-of-use of ORAcollect has resulted in using these products as our preferred method of DNA collection. With samples collected in under 30 seconds, we obtain at least 40 ng of DNA per sponge sample which we found suitable to run not only an exome but a full genome that includes both the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA in one test.” – Marina Kerr, MITO-FIND project.

Related blog: The Mito-FIND project: Unlocking the secrets to mitochondrial disease with DNA from saliva

Non-invasive sample collection

Other methods such as blood collection and biopsies are very invasive for genomic and microbiome sample collection. These invasive methods not only are impossible to do without going into the clinic/hospital but also have low donor participation rates [5]. For example, blood collection has an average of 30% compliance rate compared to a 70-95% compliance rate for non-invasive saliva collection.[6]

Even our sister company, Novosanis provides easy-at home urine collection kits. Novosanis’ Colli-Pee® device allows for the self-collection of first void urine. This is an effective sample type for the detection of several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as an alternative biofluid for detecting and monitoring cancer biomarkers for those conducting research studies on these topics. (Read their blog At-Home Urine Sampling: A way to continue healthcare practices for more information)

Suitable for mailing

All of our at-home self-collection kits can be sent via regular postal services. With blood collection or bulk stool, large boxes filled with dry ice would need to be shipped with a courier service. A complex shipping method not only increases costs, but can also reduce the stability of your donors’ samples[7]. All of our sample collection kits contain a stabilization chemistry designed to stabilize nucleic acids at ambient temperature and fluctuating temperatures experienced during shipping. 

Mailing options available here.

Cold chain transportation – an example

Using cold chain transportation for fecal samples collected in a container requires several items to ship to the donor and back: Styrofoam box, gloves, ice pack, stool collection containers, and other shipping materials. OMNIgene·GUT does not require cold-chain transport as our chemistry can stabilize the microbiome profile at room temperature. The ultimate goal of fecal microbiome analysis is to have a snapshot of the microbiome profile at the time of collection ensuring there is no change in the observed microbial community composition during the post-collection steps leading to the sample processing.

“Studies evaluating OMNIgene·GUT, a commercially available faeces collection/stabilization system, indicated this system was equivalent to, or superior in maintaining sample microbial composition to freezing, resulting in very few alterations to fresh stool samples.” Panek et al.[8]

For more information on cost, stability, and more on cold chain transportation, you can read our 3 part blog series “Cold chain stool sample collection: a series of unfortunate events”.

Like our fecal collection kits, all of our microbiome and genomic sample collection kits can be transported through standard mail and can withstand multiple temperatures endured during shipping all while maintaining sample integrity and stability [9] [10]. For example, Dr. Bruce J. Paster at the Forsyth Institute stated,

"By using HOMIM (Human Oral Microbe Identification Microarray), we demonstrated that saliva samples stored in OMNIgene•ORAL were indeed stabilized for at least 3 weeks, even at 37° Celsius. This is outstanding! Consequently, I think OMNIgene•ORAL would be very useful for remote collections alleviating the need for a -80° freezer or, for that matter, any refrigeration to preserve samples. This is an incredible benefit for any investigator who is interested in preserving precious clinical samples, especially for use with molecular analyses of genomic material." - Bruce J. Paster, Ph.D. The Forsyth Institute [11]

With our at-home self-collection kits, your work doesn’t have to stop.

With DNA Genotek’s line of self-collection products you can,

  • Access donors of all ages with easy at-home self-collection
  • Mail kits to donors to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital or clinic, reducing the burden on healthcare professionals
  • Save on shipping costs with room temperature stable samples

Click below to request free test kits today or email us at

Request free trial kits of any DNA Genotek saliva kit


[1] Abraham, J.E. et al. (2012). Saliva samples are a viable alternative to blood samples as a source of DNA for high throughput genotyping.


[3] Abrahamson M et al. Successful collection of stool samples for microbiome analyses from a large community-based population of elderly men. Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications. 7: 158-162 (2017).





[8] Panek M et al. Methodology challenges in studying human gut microbiota - effects of collection, storage, DNA extraction and next generation sequencing technologies. Nature. 8:5143 (2018).




 *OMNIgene.GUT, ORAcollect for Pediatrics and the Novosanis’ Colli-Pee® device are for research use only (RUO) in the United States.

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