USF Ingenuity Tackles COVID-19 Test Swab Shortage


TAMPA -- One roadblock to ramping up coronavirus testing is a shortage of medical-grade swabs used to obtain samples.

They're manufactured in two places... Italy and China. Both countries have been ravaged by the COVID-19 outbreak and the "supply chain is broken," according to USF Health radiology associate professor Dr. Summer Decker, PhD.

She's part of a team that includes USF, Tampa General Hospital, a New York health organization, and Formlabs, a company that makes 3D printers and materials. They came up with a template that allows the more than 100 U.S. hospitals that have 3D printers to make their own medical-grade swabs, described as "as good or better" than the ones coming from Italy and China.

Dr. Decker says Northwell Health, New York's largest healthcare provider, conducted a clinical trial on the swabs with positive results. USF and TGH are conducting their own test with results expected soon.

Decker says 3D printing can and is being used to alleviate shortages of other medical items in short supply, including masks, face shields and ventilator parts. In fact, USF's College of Engineering has designed face shields being used by USF Health.

Hear an interview with Dr. Summer Decker:

Photo: supplied by Formlabs