3D-printed nasal swabs work as well as commercial swabs for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, study finds — ScienceDaily


As COVID-19 quickly spread worldwide this spring, shortages of supplies, including the nasopharyngeal (nasal) swabs used to collect viral samples, limited diagnostic testing.

Now, a multisite clinical trial led by the University of South Florida Health (USF Health) Morsani College of Medicine and its primary hospital affiliate Tampa General Hospital (TGH) provides the first evidence that 3D-printed alternative nasal swabs work as well, and safely, as the standard synthetic flocked nasal swabs.

The results were published online Sept. 10 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. A commentary accompanying the paper cites the authors’ timely, collaborative response to supply chain disruptions affecting testing capacity early in the pandemic.

Seeking a solution to an unprecedented demand for nasal swabs at their own institution and others, USF Health researchers in the Departments of Radiology and Infectious Diseases reached out to colleagues at TGH; Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider; and leading 3D-printer manufacturer Formlabs. Working around the clock, this multidisciplinary team rapidly designed, tested and produced a 3D printed nasal swab prototype as a replacement for commercially-made flocked nasal swabs. Bench testing (24-hour, 3-day, and leeching) using respiratory syncytial virus as a proxy for SARS-CoV-2, as well as local clinical validation of the final prototype (fabricated with FDA-approved nontoxic, surgical grade materials), was successfully completed in mid-March 2020.

The larger-scale clinical trial began in late March at three sites: TGH, Northwell Health, and Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. (Other sites joined later.)

Although USF Health held a provisional patent on the concept and design of the new 3D printed swab, they freely shared the information with hospitals, clinics, governments and international agencies experiencing supply chain shortages. Since the first batches of 3D printed swabs were processed, tens of millions of the USF Health-invented devices have been used in 22 countries, said lead