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  • Supply constraints in April to May 2020 led the Aga Khan University's Innovation Lab to design and develop a local alternative: a 3D printed swab that will reduce the need to import swabs for respiratory sampling.
Aga Khan University
AKU’s 3D printed nasal swab helps increase COVID-19 diagnostic capacity

Pakistan is now able to locally produce nasal swabs, the essential tool that collects samples for COVID-19 tests, after Aga Khan University (AKU) successfully completed clinical trials on a 3D printed swab.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global surge in demand for diagnostic test kits and components, including the cotton bud-shaped nasal swabs, as countries around the world ramped up testing facilities. Pakistan was no different and has had to import all nasal swabs to date. 

Supply constraints at the peak of the pandemic in April to May 2020 led to AKU’s Innovation Lab searching for a solution by designing and developing a local alternative. 

A team of researchers, clinical laboratory experts and biomedical engineers, led by Saleem Sayani, principal investigator and Director of AKU's Technology and Innovation Centre and Digital Health Resource Centre, used a specialised 3D printer to develop a prototype. Clinical trials on the prototype have now found the 3D printed nasal swab to be as safe, effective and user-friendly as imported swabs. 

“Our printer can produce over 1,000 swabs per day at a significantly lower cost than those we import,” said Mr Sayani.

AKU Medical College Dean Dr Adil Haider stated that the 3D printed swab demonstrated how local innovation can solve local problems even amidst a pandemic.

“The 3D printed swab will reduce the need to import swabs for respiratory sampling,” said Professor Zahra Hasan from AKU’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, the co-principal investigator on the project. “This can help increase COVID-19 diagnostic capacity across Pakistan.”

This article was adapted from a story published on the Aga Khan University’s website.