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3D printed swabs now in use worldwide: developers

The cost of materials per 3D-printed nasal swab ranges from 26 to 46 cents; commercial swabs cost about $1 each, the authors said.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | November 25, 2020 8:11:22 am
3D printed nasopharyngeal swabs developed by University of South Florida. (Source: Radiological Society of North America)

In September, researchers published the results of clinical trials on an innovation: 3D printed nasal swabs as an alternative to commercial swabs to test for Covid-19 (reported in The Indian Express on September 28). Since then, hospitals worldwide have used the original files to print swabs in tens of millions. Next week, the results of the trial, first published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, will now be presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) next week.

Researchers at University of South Florida (USF) Health designed, tested and produced the 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 swabs were found to work as well and as safely as the standard commercial nasal swabs. 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 authors said then.

By now, “USF Health has printed more than 100,000 3D NP swabs, and hospitals around the world have used our 3D files to print tens of millions more swabs for point-of-care use,” Dr Summer Decker of USF Health said in a statement issued by RSNA.

After researchers designed and tested the 3D printed alternative, Tampa General Hospital (affiliated to USF) adopted the swab as its standard of care and began printing more than 300 swabs a day for the hospital and its affiliated care centres. The hospital’s six printers continue to print about 9,000 swabs per week. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

The 3D printing process takes up to 15 hours depending on the printer. The printed swabs are rinsed in isopropyl alcohol, cured and hand-inspected for defects. Each swab is then sterilised in an autoclave and packed in a test kit.

USF filed for a provisional patent on the 3D swab and provided the design files and clinical data at no cost to hospitals, clinics and licensed medical device companies around the world.

“Medical 3D printing is housed in the field of radiology, and RSNA and the 3D Printing Special Interest Group give us a voice. This project shows novel ways that radiology departments around the world can directly impact hospitals and clinical care during a crisis like Covid-19,” Dr Decker said.

Source: Radiological Society of North America

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