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3D printed nasal swabs

Date: 29 September 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


Amid a potential shortage of nasal swabs to collect samples for coronavirus testing, researchers have come up with an alternative: 3D-printed nasal swabs.



A clinical trial has provided evidence that 3D-printed alternative nasal swabs work as well, and safely, as the standard commercial nasal swabs.



  • The results are published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Researchers designed, tested, and produced a 3D printed nasal swab prototype.

  • The large-scale clinical trial began in late March at three sites: Tampa General Health (Florida), Northwell Health (NY), and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Philadelphia). Other sites joined later.

  • The only adverse reaction was a few instances of slight nasal bleeding. The cost of materials per 3D-printed nasal swab ranges from 26 to 46 cents; commercial swabs cost about $1 each.

  • The gold standard for diagnosing respiratory infections is to look for viral genetic material found in mucosal fluid collected with a long, slender swab inserted into the patient's nose and back of the throat.

  • The nasal swab is put into a plastic tube with chemicals that stabilize the sample until the virus-specific genetic material can be extracted and amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in a diagnostics laboratory. Conventional swabs feature a bushy tip coated with nylon flock.

  • Researchers designed a tip with a 3D printed textured pattern able to capture a sufficient sample for COVID testing while keeping patient safety and comfort in mind.

  • Given the ongoing need for widespread COVID-19 testing, the study authors concluded that 3D printing technology offers a viable, cost-efficient option to address swab supply shortages, particularly when local hospitals or other clinical sites already have 3D printing labs equipped to print and process the devices.

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