COVID-19 test: VA studies 3D printed nasal swabs to guard against future declines of traditional swabs
In August 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Food and Drug Administration reported shortages in the national supply of nasal swabs used to test for the virus, among other supplies such as equipment. personal protection.
While VA continued to ensure an adequate supply of swabs, the FDA cited a larger national shortage as late as March of this year.
Although the pandemic has receded and many Americans have been vaccinated, VA is taking no chances. VA researchers are studying the safety and effectiveness of 3D printed nasal swabs, in the event of another urgent nationwide need to test patients for COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. The agency hopes to offset other potential shortages of traditional swabs in the commercial supply chain and aims to provide scientific evidence of the value of 3D swabs to the non-VA healthcare system, as part of VA’s mission. to support national health care during the pandemic.
Researchers may also be able to detect common viruses
Dr. Joseph Iaquinto, a biomedical engineer at the VA Center for Limb Loss and Mobility in VA Puget Sound, Wash., Is leading the study. His team aims to examine the viability of five types of 3D swabs, two of which were produced by VA and the rest by commercial 3D printing companies. Iaquinto believes 3D swabs were not on the commercial market before the pandemic.
Part of the “elegance” of the study, says Iaquinto, is that the researchers use a swab cartridge that can simultaneously test a battery of viruses. There are six viral targets, including the novel coronavirus, influenza A, influenza B and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the most important cause of lower respiratory infection in young children.
“Our target for the study is COVID-19,” Iaquinto said. “But if these 3D printed swabs show the ability to collect and release viral material for clinical testing, then they may be suitable for many use cases, including the detection of common viruses.”
“Print it quickly in the real world”
Since the onset of the pandemic, VA innovators, researchers and clinicians have helped build a more resilient supply chain of personal protective equipment and other supplies to support VA’s response to the health crisis. These items included face masks, face shields, balaclavas, desk screens and nasal swabs. In many cases, 3D printing has been involved because of its flexibility in producing new products.
The benefit of 3D printing is the ability to “drastically change your digital design or design something completely different and then print it quickly in the real world,” Iaquinto explains. “This allows you to prototype or modulate production at a faster rate than other tracks. “
In the nasal swab study, researchers intend to provide statistical evidence on the safety and efficacy of 3D swabs in use and about to be ready for use. The aim is to identify 3D swab models, if any, that provide the same clinical result as traditional swabs.
“Collaboration at its best”
The study calls for dabbing veterans and VA employees for COVID-19 testing that presents itself as a matter of routine care. But researchers are modifying the study to recruit patients who are in hospital, have contracted COVID-19, or are symptomatic but are not scheduled for a swab.
The VA innovation ecosystem and the VA research and development office are collaborating to support the study. VA Ventures, which was formed last year in partnership with Innovation Ecosystem, is one of the VA programs that has designed, manufactured and evaluated equipment for VA’s COVID-19 response. Iaquinto is also affiliated with VA Ventures, which operates the swab production facility at VA Puget Sound.
“This study is a prime example of how several VA departments – the Ecocystem Innovation, the Office of Research and Development, the National Program Office for Sterile Processing, Supply and Logistics, and the Service Pathology and Laboratory Medicine – working together to support VA’s Continuity of Care for its veterans and employees, “says Iaquinto.” This is collaboration at its best. “
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