A multidisciplinary research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a way to increase the sensitivity of the primary test used to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Applying their findings to computerized test equipment could improve our ability to identify people who are infected but do not exhibit symptoms.
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The team’s results, published in the scientific journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, describe a mathematical technique for perceiving comparatively faint signals in diagnostic test data that indicate the presence of the virus. These signals can escape detection when the number of viral particles found in a patient’s nasal swab test sample is low. The team’s method helps a modest signal stand out more clearly.
“Applying our technique could make the swab test up to 10 times more sensitive,” said Paul Patrone, a NIST physicist and a co-author on the team’s paper. “It could
As COVID-19 quickly spread worldwide this spring, shortages of supplies, including the nasopharyngeal (nasal) swabs used to collect viral samples, limited diagnostic testing.
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Now, a multisite clinical trial led by the University of South Florida Health (USF Health) Morsani College of Medicine and its primary hospital affiliate Tampa General Hospital (TGH) provides the first evidence that 3D-printed alternative nasal swabs work as well, and safely, as the standard synthetic flocked nasal swabs.
The results were published online Sept. 10 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. A commentary accompanying the paper cites the authors’ timely, collaborative response to supply chain disruptions affecting testing capacity early in the pandemic.
Seeking a solution to an unprecedented demand for nasal swabs at their own institution and others, USF Health researchers in the Departments of Radiology and Infectious Diseases reached out to colleagues at TGH; Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider; and leading 3D-printer