The global medical swabs market size was valued at USD 1,822.41 million in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 4,403.78 million in 2031, growing at a CAGR of 10.3% during the forecast period (2023–2031). The escalation of infectious diseases, cross-contamination, and pandemics is a significant catalyst for the expansion of the medical swabs market.
A medical swab is a medicated absorbent pad, stick, or material used as a single-use device in the medical industry. Typically, medical swabs comprise a small cotton wad on the end of a short wooden, paper, or plastic rod. Depending on the intended application, the point material may vary. It is usually composed of high-quality pharmaceutical-grade materials (such as foam, rayon, polyester, and sterile cotton) that have been further sterilized using ethylene oxide gas or gamma irradiation before being distributed.
Since they contain absorbent materials with medicinal properties, they are extensively used for wound cleanliness, surgical procedures, collecting samples, and first aid, among many other applications. A swab is optimal for culturing, transporting, and environmental sampling in forensics and general medicine. Swabs are also used for preoperative cleansing, isolating microorganisms in culture media, seeding plates, and preparing smears.
|Market Size||USD 4,403.78 million in 2031|
|Fastest Growing Market||Europe|
|Largest Market||Asia pacific|
|Report Coverage||Revenue Forecast, Competitive Landscape, Growth Factors, Environment & Regulatory Landscape and Trends|
The utilization of medical swabs is seeing a significant surge in its target demographic, primarily driven by many variables, such as the notable growth of the elderly population afflicted with acute and chronic illnesses and the volume of laboratory tests conducted, among others. Based on estimations provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the global incidence of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) exceeds 1.4 million individuals at any moment.
Patients can acquire HAIs from exposure to bacteria, viruses, spores, or fungi from contact with healthcare workers' hands, contaminated environmental surfaces, catheter insertions, and other patients. This is not just limited to patients, as physicians are also exposed to these infections, one of the major drivers for swab tests in developed countries. According to CDC estimates, around 165,000 C. difficile cases occur annually in the US alone, resulting in USD 1.3 billion in added costs and 9,000 deaths. The rise in infectious diseases, cross infections, and pandemics is one of the major growth drivers for the medical swabs market.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is the golden benchmark for COVID-19 diagnosis as it checks the presence of smaller traces of virus genetic material. The sample for this test is usually taken from the nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal regions using medical swabs. The increasing number of COVID-19 tests is accelerating the demand for medical swabs.
Many developed countries plan to shift from symptomatic testing to mass/population-scale testing. For instance, the UK currently performs around a million tests and plans to expand its testing capacity to reduce the spread of disease. The increasing mortality rate in various countries drives governments to conduct many diagnostic tests to identify infected individuals and provide timely treatment. Such factors indirectly drive the demand for medical swabs in the market.
There are various complications associated with the use of medical swabs. Although SARS-CoV-2 nasopharyngeal swab RT-PCR testing is relatively safer for diagnosing COVID-19, the method has various complications. Many individuals are also uncomfortable with this sample collection method and prefer to undergo diagnostic tests involving other sample collection methods.
The risk factor for adverse events ranges between 0.02% to 0.16% for nasopharyngeal testing methods. Other common adverse events reported during the use of nasopharyngeal swabs include retention of foreign bodies in the nasal cavity due to breakage of swab tips, nasal bleeding, and post-swab fractures. Thus, the complications associated with medical swabs restrict the market growth.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, a large number of patients had to undergo COVID-19 antigen (Ag) and antibody (Ab) rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), which required medical swabs. Although medical swabs have not undergone many advances in recent years, the unprecedented requirement for rapid diagnostic tests has necessitated the demand for advanced swab technologies. Thus, some medical swab manufacturing start-ups have launched new variants with unique designs that can replace deep nasopharyngeal swabs.
For instance, Test at Home Pte. Ltd (TAH), an India- and Singapore-based start-up backed by Antler, a global VC firm, launched a lollipop-like swab allowing individuals to collect saliva samples for COVID-19 testing. The company aims to replace the nasal swab technique with a less invasive and painless saliva collection method for accurate COVID-19 testing. The company conducted clinical trials on patients in India in partnership with the National University of Singapore and Datar Cancer Genetics (UK-Germany-India). The results were highly promising, with 95% accuracy compared to standard nasal swabs. Thus, the new generation swabs used for sample collection create opportunities for market expansion.
Based on region, the global medical swabs market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa.
Asia-Pacific is the most significant global medical swabs market shareholder and is anticipated to grow substantially during the forecast period. Factors such as the expanding geriatric population, the rising prevalence of chronic illnesses, and the increasing rate of surgeries in hospitals, ASCs, and other healthcare facilities are driving the market growth. Most elderly individuals in the region have various chronic conditions, like cancer and cardiovascular diseases, often requiring surgical intervention. Therefore, the surge in the prevalence of such chronic conditions has propelled the demand for diagnostic tests in the region, accelerating the demand for medical swabs.
Additionally, the high population and the need for population-scale testing have contributed to a surge in the consumption of medical swabs in the market. By 2025, an estimated 226 million seniors (65 and older) will reside in 710 metropolitan areas/cities across Asia-Pacific, accounting for 11.4% of the total population. This demographic transition toward an aging population is surging the region's hospital admissions rate and triggering the demand for medical devices in healthcare facilities.
Europe is estimated to grow significantly over the forecast period. Countries such as Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Italy, and Denmark account for a considerably large HAI burden. Factors such as the increasing incidence rate of HAIs drive market growth, and various statistical studies have supported this claim. For instance, the most recent comprehensive study by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in April 2019 concludes approximately 9 million cases of HAIs occur across Europe each year. Increasing prevalence will accelerate the demand for medical swabs for various diagnostic sampling procedures and tests. Hospitals in the country also largely invest in cleaning their medical devices, which is a tremendous opportunity for vendors in this segment.
In North America, the significant proportion can be attributed to several factors, including increased healthcare costs in the US and Canada, a rise in the prevalence of health-associated infections (HAIs), an aging population, well-established hospital sectors, and an increase in the incidence of chronic diseases. The region has the highest number of surgeries, including emergency and unnecessary surgeries. This has accelerated the use of various reusable medical devices that must be cleaned and sterilized before and after use to avoid infections. Healthcare facilities use various sterilizer devices and chemical disinfectants to clean these reusable medical devices, which is another factor responsible for the growth of the medical device cleaning market in the region.
In Latin America, the increasing prevalence of infectious diseases is largely driving the demand for medical swabs. In 2018, an estimated 1.9 million people lived with HIV in Latin America. The main cause for the high prevalence rate of HIV infection in the region is the social stigma among the affected population. Moreover, in 2018, 80% of people living with HIV in Latin America were aware of their medical condition. Although Latin America has a concentrated epidemic, with low HIV prevalence among the general population, it is significantly high among certain groups, such as gay men and transgender women. In 2017, gay men accounted for 41% of HIV infections in Latin America. Other prevalent infectious diseases in Latin America include dengue, malaria, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Some new hospitals are largely investing in point-of-care testing, and the subsequent surge in the use of medical swabs for screening tests is driving the market growth.
According to WHO, HAIs account for about 75% of deaths in the neonatal population in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The most common HAIs in Saudi Arabia are bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, urinary tract infections, and hospital-acquired pneumonia. In the event that the duration of hospitalization is beyond a certain threshold, there is a substantial escalation in the likelihood of acquiring Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs), with an approximate thirteen-fold rise. In addition, many HAIs are associated with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Several epidemiologic studies have reported that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are witnessing a rapid growth in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, especially carbapenem-resistant bacteria, which has increased by 90% in the past two decades and is responsible for nearly half of the infected patients. This is largely increasing the use of medical swabs in the market.
The global medical swabs market is segmented by product, application, sample type, and end-user.
Based on product, the global medical swabs market is segmented into polyester-tipped, cotton-tipped, rayon-tipped, foam-tipped, and other medical swabs.
The polyester-tipped segment owns the highest market share and is estimated to grow significantly during the forecast period. Polyester swabs are used for specimen collection and microbiology experiments. Although this medical swab variant was created for medical applications, it is currently used in various industries. Polyester is suitable for making swab heads for precise cleaning. It can be shaped into different patterns and sizes to clean hard-to-reach areas, such as recesses and crevices in medical instruments. Therefore, polyester swabs are widely used to clean and sterilize medical instruments due to their precise cleaning properties in a controlled environment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for medical swabs witnessed a considerable rise in the market due to a surge in diagnostic tests. Many countries had to import medical swabs from COPAN Diagnostics (an Italian company) and Puritan Medical Products (a US-based company) to manage the acute shortage of medical swabs, as not many global manufacturers were operating during the outbreak.
Based on application, the global medical swabs market is divided into laboratory testing, specimen collection, and other applications.
The laboratory testing segment is the most significant contributor to the market and is estimated to grow substantially throughout the forecast period. Medical swabs collect large samples from various patients for diagnostic procedures. Some of the collected samples are cultured in various media using medical swabs. These swabs are also used to transport and culture samples. Such applications are driving the use of medical swabs in laboratory testing. In addition, the high adoption rate of DNA forensics and the rise in hospital laboratory services have accelerated the demand for medical swabs. A range of medical swabs are needed for different sampling techniques. Medical swabs are also single-use items perfect for gathering different types of lab samples.
Additionally, the growing prevalence of numerous diseases worldwide has accelerated laboratory testing. For instance, countries like India have the highest populations and more than 100,000 laboratories. In the US, there are more than 28,000 diagnostic and medical laboratories. The number of laboratories is increasing worldwide with patients, a major growth driver for laboratory testing.
Based on sample type, the global medical swabs market is bifurcated into nasal, oral, and other types.
The nasal segment dominates the global market and is projected to expand significantly over the forecast period. The nasopharyngeal swabs are largely preferred as a standard testing method for detecting viruses and bacterial infections. The nasal swabs have better or greater sensitivity than the OP samples for detecting the adenovirus, human metapneumovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus, and influenza virus but not parainfluenza virus.
In addition, the nasal swabs provide more comfort to patients along with the same sensitivity and accuracy of detection. Such factors have accelerated the demand for nasal swabs in healthcare settings. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a large volume of nasal and OP samples was collected for COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Countries like Japan prefer using nasal samples as patients feel uncomfortable during the nasopharyngeal swab collection procedures.
Based on the end-user, the global medical swabs market is divided into laboratories and diagnostic centers, hospitals and clinics, research institutions, and other end-users.
The laboratories and diagnostic centers segment is the highest revenue contributor to the market and is estimated to grow substantially throughout the forecast period. The standard reference laboratories generate revenue by performing several in vitro tests. Most investments in diagnostic labs focus on advanced equipment for the best and most accurate results, and a large variety of diagnostic tests require several types of medical swabs. Laboratories procure unique medical swabs for accurate analysis and better patient satisfaction.
In addition, these laboratories are owned by private or government institutes. These labs also prefer to use automated devices to analyze a large volume of samples. Automated swabs were introduced to handle the large volume of COVID-19 samples in one go. This has reduced the manual intervention to a negligible level and increased the accuracy, with a low turnaround time and automatic workload balancing. These institutes played a significant role in the diagnostics of COVID-19 globally.