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3D printing could be the solution to the COVID-19 test kit shortage

USF Health is 3D printing nasal swabs with surgical grade resin--the missing piece of the COVID-19 testing kits.

TAMPA, Fla. — The solution to our local and nationwide shortage of COVID-19 testing kits could come from the University of South Florida Health and Tampa General.

USF Health is 3D printing nasal swabs with surgical grade resin--the missing piece of the COVID-19 testing kits.

“Really we are in uncharted waters here. So, what we can say is we are optimistic at this point that they will be used imminently," said Dr. Summer Decker, Ph.D., and director of 3D clinical applications at USF Health.

Decker said a lot of the delays we're seeing nationally are because there just aren't enough testing kits. 

"Unfortunately, the supply chain around the world has been broken. These swabs are made in Italy and in China. And so we’ve had to be creative, work all together on coming up with a solution that we can implement nationwide, and 3D printing is allowing for that," explained Decker.

Decker said the development, design, and testing of technology like this would normally take years. But now, USF and Northwell Health are close to 3D printing the solution to the COVID19 testing kit shortage after just two weeks.

“So these nasal swabs have already passed all of the benchmarks we have set so far. The last one we are waiting is just confirmation of the clinical results we have already seen come out of our partners at Northwell Health," said Decker.

 As soon as those results come in, which could be as soon as Sunday, those swabs will be used.

“We anticipate results, imminently," said Decker.

USF alone can print 3,000 swabs a day. But, their original prints will also immediately be used across the United States.

“There are at least 99 hospitals across the country that have a point of care, or in house 3D printing teams. By us working together, we are able to share that file across all of those hospitals which means that regions like New York City, like Louisiana, California, Washington, that we can all work together and actually implement this, nationwide, immediately," explained Decker.

It's novel technology being made in Tampa Bay that could be used to tackle a global pandemic.

RELATED: FDA fast-tracks coronavirus testing device that could have results ready in 5 minutes

RELATED: 'Nobody saw this coming': USF professor says we were not prepared for COVID-19

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