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September 10th 2020

New 3D Swap Could Be Solution to World Testing Increase

The worlds potential swap shortages could be avoided with a new 3D self-adjusting smart swab advancement at the University of Wolverhampton. 

A new development team from the School of Engineering, comprising of Dr Ahmad Baroutaji, Suhaib Zahid, Dr Arun Arjunan and John Robinson, have begun trailing a ‘one size fits all Nasopharyngeal (the upper part of the throat behind the nose) swab’ which applies the concepts of medical meta-materials. The primary advantage to this allowing the 3D smart swab to navigate through the nasal cavity with reduced stress on the surrounding tissues and discomfort to the recipient.

Diagnoses of Covid-19 are currently confirmed by using nasopharyngeal swaps to distinguish between positive and negative conclusions. Sufficient alternatives to the current swabs are in high demand due to many international countries increasing testing and anticipating the second COVID-19 wave. In addition, the swabs can not be made from common materials, such as cotton, plastic or wood, as this would directly effect the Ribonucleic Acit (RNA) when collecting the sample.

University of Wolverhampton Statement

In a statement, leading researcher Dr Arjunan highlighted: “This research is the first step in starting an open and collaborative process to drastically improve the existing concepts in nasopharyngeal swabs by using the principles of digital fabrication and meta-materials.”

“The opportunity to digitally conceive and 3D print swabs allows for the incorporation of geometrical features that can potentially reduce patient discomfort”.

Currently, the testing process for COVID-19 involves inserting a medial swap several inches deep into the naval cavity. This process can be significantly uncomfortable for participants of many ages, especially children. Consequently, a increasing number of swabs are often void due to the recipient (often children under the age of 10) not allowing or being to uncomfortable in insert the swab far enough into the nasal cavity to receive a accurate reading.

The current swabs used to test for COVID-19 are especially designed to take a accurate reading, they have a micro brush located at the end which collects mucous in a hollow stem. As the demand for COVID-19 diagnostic testing surges, alternative examination treatments and diagnosing elements needs to be readily available. However the development in 3D nasal swabs could be a significant development in reaching sufficient demand levels globally for COVID-19 tests.

The research conducted at the Wolverhampton University will be widely available so that other associations, countries and research facilities will be able to successfully manufacture them.

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Source: The Engineer, September 2020

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