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Tampa Bay hospitals print own COVID-19 testing kits

Many local hospitals are relying on 3D printed nasal swabs to perform COVID-19 tests. The design was created at USF Health.

TAMPA, Fla. — At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida, the state, like many others, was running low on testing kits. More specifically, the nasal swab. 

"They’re actually manufactured in Northern Italy. And the backup location is in China. And so the problem was, here are these hospitals, all over the US, that were trying to get access to these nasal swabs, but they were finding that they were out of stock everywhere," said Summer Decker, PhD and director of 3D clinical applications at USF Health.

Her lab took on the challenge of printing swabs. Within a day they had a prototype, and within a week they were testing.

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“What we found in our clinical trial was actually very exciting. We found not only did they perform well, they actually in some ways outperform the traditional swab," explained Decker.

The swabs were approved and are now the standard use of care swab used at Tampa General Hospital, USF Health Clinics, Moffitt Cancer Center, James A. Haley VA Hospital, and Bay Pines VA Hospital.

The swabs are being used far beyond Tampa Bay as well. 

“So what we did was we took our files and we made them public so that anyone that was a hospital or a clinic that was within their legal rights, could actually print these for their own facility," said Decker.

The Army and Navy are also printing and using the USF Health Swabs and over 60 hospital systems across the U.S. print them as well including the Mayo Clinic, Brigham and Women’s, Thomas Jefferson Medical Center, LSU Health, and more. 

The swabs are also being printed internationally in countries including Canada, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, Switzerland, Georgia, Malaysia, Argentina, and more.

"To date, we have last count over 25 million USF design swabs around the world being used right now," said Decker.

With cases climbing in Florida, the printers have scaled back up, and the lab is continuing to help in the fight against COVID-19.

"We came up with a solution that has helped a lot of people," said Decker. "So we're going to keep our eyes out hear what they need and then address those concerns and those needs when they let us know.”

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