UofL Develops New Swabs for Coronavirus Test Kits

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It could be a solution to the shortage of swabs in COVID-19 test kits. Students and staff at the University of Louisville’s Schools of Dentistry, Engineering, and Medicine have created swabs using 3D printing. The goal is to produce at least 2,000 swabs that can begin to be used for testing patients in early May. 

Dr. Gerald Grant is one of the professors heading up the project. He’s the interim assistant dean of Advanced Technologies and Innovation at the School of Dentistry and also an associate director at UofL’s AMIST (Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science & Technology). The health and science project brings together students from different programs of study who otherwise may not have worked together. 

“I think that’s been something that you don’t normally see in an academic type of institution. I don’t think they normally get the ability to collaborate and work towards a common goal with people they would normally not even associate with,” said Grant. 

Grant compares the urgent need for the swabs and face shields to some issues he faced while serving in the military before his time at UofL. 

“3D printing can provide a unique opportunity to address urgent needs. This is the reason I came to UofL to work with teams of engineers, physicians, dentists, artists, and others to address situations much like we have now,” he said in a university news release. 

Grant told Spectrum News 1 he’s very proud of the students who’ve stepped up to do the job. 

“The great thing about students is they’re eager…and so they’re great. When I ask, about 10 minutes later, I get new designs. So it’s not like I have to wait around for it to happen. It happens like almost instantaneously. So then we can move. So that’s why the project’s been able to move so well,” he explained. 

There’s been such a demand for coronavirus tests in Kentucky and across the nation, the supplies have been in short supply. That includes swabs. In Governor Andy Beshear’s latest briefing on Thursday, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack spoke to this. 

“That’s what a test kit looks like,” Stack said as he held up the contents of a seemingly simple bag of tools, “and you can understand why we’re very frustrated. It shouldn’t be that hard to get a swab like this but apparently, it is incredibly hard.”