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College participates in collaborative effort to sterilize testing swabs

The Ohio State University organization of Institutes and Centers collaborated to form a team to provide a solution for a critical issue in the efforts to test more Ohioans for the coronavirus, the shortage of testing swabs. The collaborative efforts led by Ohio State’s Institute for Materials Research (IMR), first included the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) and the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI).

The FDA considers nasopharyngeal swabs a class I medical devices. Unsterilized devices simply cannot be inserted into the depths of the nasal- pharyngeal passages. The manufactures that Ohio State’s hospital supply chain management were working with have not previously supplied this volume of supplies and were not equipped to sterilize a million swabs. 

Stefan Niewiesk, DVM, PhD, DECLAM, professor and chair of Veterinary Biosciences at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine has led the efforts to identify a sterilization method that could allow such a large amount of swabs to be sterilized before use. Birdell Fout, JR Rinehardt and Toni Hoepf (pictured, left) have been instrumental in setting up a laboratory space and autoclave so that Veterinary Biosciences, in collaboration with other colleges, can sterilize roughly 5,000 to 6,000 swabs per week. Toni is also is responsible for packaging and sterilizing the swabs which will ultimately reach those in need of this critical testing component that can help combat the coronavirus in Ohio. 



“It is gratifying to see so many colleges and units at Ohio State involved in this effort, each offering their unique services for a greater good, and I am pleased we are able to contribute.  This initiative also highlights the symbiotic relationship between all of the health sciences colleges, a point that is particularly important during a pandemic,” said Niewiesk. 

Seth Faith, PhD, Strategic Alliance Officer and Principal Investigator for the Ohio State University Infectious Diseases Institute, is an expert on virus diagnostic testing and has acted as a liaison between the engineering team and the clinicians at the Wexner Medical Center, as well as the various colleges across campus who are making incredible contributions to the success of this project. 

“This is teamwork at its finest,” said Faith. “I am proud to be a Buckeye, and part of such an amazingly talented and motivated interdisciplinary team.  And from what we understand, the swab supplies have been so low that without the alternative 3D print swabs, some people may not have been tested.  It is incredibly gratifying knowing that Ohio State is helping to keep Ohioans safe by ensuring that testing can continue.”

Last updated: 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 - 11:07am