USF Health, Formlabs, Northwell Health partner to create nasal swabs for coronavirus testing

Coronavirus testing kits aren’t the only medical supply that can be difficult to secure.

A serious shortage of nasal swabs critical to those kits got the attention of medical researchers at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

The shortage prompted the University of South Florida, 3D printing company Formlabs, and New York-based Northwell Health to team up to find a solution that can produce 3D printed nasal swabs. The process takes about two weeks.

USF Health researchers created a design from surgical grade resin. Clinicians at Northwell Health and Tampa General Hospital, a USF Health partner, tested the swabs for “patient safety and comfort.” According to a news release announcing the partnership, results showed the swabs work as well as the standard swabs, now in short supply.

Formlabs is a manufacturing site for 3D printed medical supplies and is registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The company received FDA approval to produce the swabs, which need to be long, slender, and flexible enough to reach into the nasal cavity to retrieve specimens for testing.

“This is a prime example of the incredible impact we can have on human lives when teams of experts across academia, health care delivery, and the tech industry come together,” says Dr. Charles Lockwood, Senior VP for USF Health and Dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
The 3D printed swabs are a “viable solution” to the current shortage of nasal swabs that can help hospitals better treat patients, according to Max Lobovsky, Formlabs’ CEO and co-Founder.

The technology to make the swabs already is producing thousands of 3D printed swabs for patients at Tampa General and Northwell Health. The knowledge also will be made widely available, according to Todd Goldstein, director of Northwell Design 3D Design and Innovation.

“Not only will these swabs be provided to Northwell Health patients, but we are also proud to be sharing the design with other institutions that can 3D print so that patients across the country can benefit from our work,” said Goldstein in a news release.

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a freelance writer who lives in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. She previously covered Tampa neighborhoods for more than 15 years as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune. She grew up in Georgia but headed north to earn a BA degree from Adelphi University in Garden City, NY. She backpacked through Europe before attending the University of Iowa's Creative Writers' Workshop for two years. She has a journalism degree from Georgia College. She likes writing, history, and movies.  
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