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USF-designed 3D Nasal Swab is Being Used the World Over to Facilitate Testing of Patients


THE USF-DESIGNED 3D PRINTED NASAL SWAB that broke into national news in late March is now being used by several hundred hospitals and academic medical centers around the country, many state governments, including Ohio, Massachusetts and Virginia, and international agencies and health care facilities.

Widespread use of the nasal swab was one of many goals when it was announced March 28 that USF Health; Formlabs, a leading 3D printing company; Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider; and Tampa General Hospital had successfully designed, tested and begun producing a 3D printed nasal swab to address emergency shortages that hospitals and health care teams were facing as testing for COVID-19 increased.

The worldwide interest in the swabs kicked in quickly after the announcement and hasn’t let up since, says Dr. Summer Decker, MA ’07, MS ’08, PhD ’10, associate professor in the Department of Radiology in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and director of 3D Clinical Applications.

“We are grateful that we were able to work as a team to get this solution out so quickly in order to hopefully help many people. The response has been overwhelming,” Decker says. “It’s been very rewarding to speak to so many hospitals across the world to hear their experiences and see how we can help. This situation has stripped away many of the barriers between us so we can work together for the common goal of saving lives.”

The nasal swab design came about when, after identifying in mid-March that nasal swabs for testing COVID-19 were in high demand and extremely limited in supply, a team from USF Health’s 3D Clinical Applications Division created an initial design, working with Northwell Health and collaborating with Formlabs to develop prototypes and secure materials for a 3D printed alternative.

Up close picture of 3D swabs

As of late May, 50,000 nasopharyngeal swabs had been produced for USF Health and its affiliates, including Tampa General, Moffitt Cancer Center and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. [Allison Long, USF Health Communications]

Over the span of one week, the teams worked together to develop a nasal swab prototype and test it in the USF Health and Northwell Health labs. In two days, USF Health and Northwell Health, using Formlabs’ 3D printers and biocompatible, autoclavable resins, developed prototypes.

Key milestones in testing the swabs were conducted by USF Health faculty researchers in the departments of Radiology and Infectious Diseases in collaboration with Northwell Health, including validation testing (24-hour, three-day, and leeching), and rapid clinical testing at Northwell Health and Tampa General Hospital. All testing showed that the 3D printed nasal swabs perform equally to standard swabs used for testing for COVID-19.

Once that clinical validation was complete, 3D printers at USF Health and Northwell Health began producing the swabs and providing them to their patients – USF Health has produced swabs for its patients and that of some of its affiliates, including Tampa General Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital.

“To see the widespread adoption of USF Health’s nasal swab test has been particularly gratifying, and I cannot speak highly enough about Dr. Summer Decker and her team for taking the initiative to meet this pressing need. Health care providers all across the nation are now better equipped to diagnose and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” says Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Dr. Ford holding a set of swabs

Jonathan Ford, a biomedical engineer in the Morsani College of Medicine’s Department of Radiology, holding nasal swabs. [Allison Long, USF Health Communications]

In addition to Lockwood and Decker, faculty from across USF joined in the design and creation of the 3D printed nasal swabs, including: Jonathan Ford, MS ’09, MS ’10, PhD ’13; Dr. Todd Hazelton, ’87, MD ’93; Gilberto Jaimes, ’13, MS ’14, Howard Kaplan, MEd ’14; Dr. Kami Kim, Dr. John Sinnott, MA ’74; Michael Teng and Dr. Jason Wilson, ’00, MD ’08.

- SARAH WORTH ’86 | USF Health