FTIR spectra data (wavenumber range 4000–650 cm–1) for each swab (see Table S1) were obtained by directly placing the saliva swab on a portable Agilent Cary 630 FTIR Spectrometer equipped with an ATR ZnSe crystal (Agilent, Santa Clara, CA) and Microlab PC software run from a dedicated laptop. Each whole spectrum contains 1798 points (1.86 cm–1 spectral resolution). For every ATR-FTIR spectroscopic measurement, three spectra were obtained from each saliva swab. Each swab analysis was performed with 32 coadditions, interspersed with 32 background scans. After each analysis, the swab was removed from the crystal and the crystal was cleaned with MilliQ water and 70% alcohol, thus avoiding intersample contamination. The robustness of this analytical method was trialed in a 2 week demonstration in Kiel (September 2020) during which 625 pharyngeal swabs were taken and analyzed using ATR-FTIR spectroscopy. Only three swab analyses in the entire spectral data set generated outliers (data not shown).

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