OPT Industries — an MIT spinoff — is developing a method of rationally designing and manufacturing nasal swabs with structures that exceed existing swab performance requirements.

OPT Industries 3D-printed InstaSwab features dedicated mesh-shaped microstructures of 100 micron resolution. OPT Industries named these improved collection devices for their microstructured bulbs that not only collect samples as efficiently as traditional nasal swabs, but release the sample completely and almost instantly when placed into the transport media.

Conventional swabs are made from natural (cotton) or synthetic (polyester, nylon, etc) fibers. Although the dense, fibrous structures are capable of absorbing liquids well, part of the sample often remains trapped in the fibers instead of being fully released into the transport media. This becomes a source of low sample quality and thus, increases the potential of false negatives.

InstaSwab was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic and was found to be up to 20 times more effective in bacterial sample elution and significantly more effective in viral sample elution for COVID-19 testing. OPT Industries is working with diagnostic partners and researchers to test InstaSwab’s ability to boost the sensitivity and reliability of assays outside of COVID-19 testing by enabling pathogen (or other target) detection at considerably low concentrations.

Photo: OPT Industries