3D nasal test swab created by Florida health officials shared internationally

Posted at 11:54 AM, Oct 22, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — A creation to help combat the coronavirus from USF Health and Tampa General Hospital is now helping people across the world.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, researchers worked to fill in gaps from the shortages that came with it, including nasal testing swabs.

“Unfortunately that component of the test kit was missing because it actually comes from overseas and actually it’s manufactured in northern Italy and if we recall back to March that is where everything was shut down and so that directly impacted our ability to be able to start testing for COVID in the U.S.,” said Summer Decker, Ph.D., the director of 3D clinical applications at USF radiology and TGH.

So a team used technology in their lab to create a 3D nasal swab.

“We worked with our colleagues here and the department of infectious disease and emergency medicine to be able to come up with an alternative to that swab that was in the test kit that actually was patient safe, comfortable and actually was able to capture that viral test that we needed so badly to do,” said Decker.

Quickly, they moved from design to clinical research, partnering with Northwell Health in addition to TGH.

“So suddenly we were getting bags and bags of these test kits thousands a week and it’s what saved us and I think in some ways it saved the Tampa Bay area because it allowed our hospital to really keep up this high volume testing,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, the associate medical director of TGH’s emergency department.

That clinical trial is now completed.

“What we found was pretty amazing. They performed as well and in some cases even better than the traditional swab,” Decker said. “That clinical trial has now come out it’s been published in a top journal for infectious disease.”

Wilson said the hospital still uses them when there’s not enough standard of care swabs.

The team also shared the information with the swab for other hospitals and agencies facing shortages, so they could create them. Since then, Decker said tens of millions are being used in more than two dozen countries.

“It’s pretty incredible to us. We all kind of keep pinching ourselves,” Decker said.

She says to her, the swab represents collaboration.

“It’s not just a COVID thing. This is something that we can look at using long-term and beyond this COVID situation,” she said.

This story was first published by Haley Bull at WFTS in Tampa Bay, Florida.