When these Boston doctors ran out of virus-testing swabs, they mobilized an army of 3-D printers

In 22 days, engineers and manufacturers came up with four new designs.

By Steven Mufson, Craig Timberg and Nitasha Tiku 

April 22, 2020 at 5:26 p.m. EDT

A month ago, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston was in trouble. Its Italian supplier of swabs for coronavirus tests had been forced to halt shipments. The hospital was unable to reach a deal with another supplier, Puritan Medical Products in Maine, that was struggling with surging demand. Doctors had barely a week’s worth of the crucial swabs left.

So Ramy Arnaout, a 43-year-old pathologist, put out calls for help. Among others, he contacted old classmates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Twenty-two frantic days later, the first of four prototypes were clinically validated.

Now, hundreds of thousands of these swabs — called nasopharyngeal swabs because they reach deep into nasal passages — are being churned out each day with the help of 3-D printers. By next week, production should be up to more than a million swabs every day, Arnaout said.

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