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UVa to start producing 75,000 COVID nasal swabs per week

The University of Virginia is providing 60,000 nasal swabs to the state each week in support of high-priority coronavirus testing.

UVa officials worked with a local engineer to design the swabs and the school plans to produce 75,000 a week, according to a press release. Of those, 15,000 will remain at UVa Health to support testing locally.

“There have been critical shortages across Virginia and across the country of nasopharyngeal swabs for COVID-19 testing,” Dr. Amy Mathers, UVa’s associate director of clinical microbiology, said in a press release. “These swabs will allow our supply chain team to focus on other areas where testing supplies remain limited.”

Mathers was part of a group that included William Guilford, a biomedical engineer in the School of Engineering, and local engineer Andy Homyk to design the swabs.

“The unusually strong spirit of collaboration that we enjoy at UVa was immeasurably helpful when it came to meeting this challenge,” Guilford said in the release. “We all understood the importance of working together to get this done, and to do it right.”

The group started with a 3D print of a swab prototype and then created an injection-molded plastic swab that Mathers successfully tested for safety and effectiveness in a clinical trial at UVa Medical Center.

UVa has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the swabs. The school is working with private companies to private companies to manufacture, sterilize and package the swabs for use.

“I am very appreciative of the hard work of this UVa team to develop this vital testing supply, which will also support UVa’s ongoing testing efforts in communities around the Charlottesville area,” Dr. K. Craig Kent, UVa’s executive vice president for health affairs, said in the release.

Mathers said in the release that other hospitals and health systems could replicate the swab’s design and begin using them after conducting a similar clinical trial at their own facility.


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