In response to the critical shortage of nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs early in the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers in the US set out to design, validate and create NP swabs using a point-of-care 3D printer.
Results of the first clinical trial of the 3D-printed NP swabs for COVID-19 testing are being presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
In trials, the 3D swabs passed all bench lab and clinical trial testing. At three trial sites, 291 patients (ages 14-94) who were hospitalised or seen in the emergency room were tested for COVID-19 using both the flocked swab and 3D swab. The 3D swab displayed statistically identical results to the flocked swab in the head-to-head trial.
The the template for the 3D swabs was distributed locally to supply institutions and was made publicly available and used across the world to allow institutions to address their needs. Between 324 and 380 could be produced per printer per day. With these 3D swabs in place, testing rates were able to increase.
To date, more than 100,000 3D NP swabs have been produced and hospitals around the world have used the template to print tens of millions more.