KU Student’s Nasal Swab Invention to Solve COVID-19 Testing Crisis in Kenya

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Nasal Swab, Coronavirus

The list of local Covid-19 innovations continues, with Kenyatta University announcing that one of its students has developed an innovation that produces nasal swabs.

Covid-19 has provided a unique opportunity that has fostered Kenyan technological innovations, from locally made ventilators to mobile applications that enable the tracing of patients’ contacts.

Swabs present an essential tool in the testing of Covid-19. Globally, medics have been using swabs to collect samples from individuals.

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The collection of samples for Covid-19 testing entails the insertion of a long swab into the cavity between the nose and mouth and twirling it several times in each nose to collect sufficient secretions for testing, and then sealing the swab in a container and taking it to a laboratory for testing.

Simon Ndirangu’s innovation produces and develops nasal swabs using 3D printing technology.

“The swabs are made using ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) material, which is a common thermoplastic polymer used in food packaging, toys and home appliances,” said Ndirangu, a fourth-year biotechnology student.

A shortage of swabs has been a great obstacle in Kenya’s fight against Covid-19. In April, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi revealed that the shortage of oral, and the more popular nasal, swabs was preventing the Health ministry from collecting the ideal number of samples, and, therefore, hindering the country’s plans for mass testing.

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Ndirangu’s invention comes as a timely solution given the increasing cases of Covid-19 in the country as it could significantly help Kenya test larger numbers.

Ndirangu said his invention currently allows the production of as many as 3,000 swabs a day.

He said his swabs feature a moulded break-point that allows health personnel to safely and easily break off the swabs stock, with several break-point options available for different tubes.

Further, the swabs, aside from being easier to use than the current models, are cheaper. Ndirangu said each swab could sell for as little as Sh100, handing Kenya the critical advantage of affordability in the fight against the pandemic.

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“There are currently only two major producers of swabs in the world and none in Africa. I intend to start producing 1,000 swabs per printer per day at Kenyatta University’s upcoming production park. The swabs are very affordable,” Ndirangu said.

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