Kenyatta University Student Innovates Covid-19 Swabs Prototype

  • Equipment and beds at the Kenyatta University Referral Hospital.
    Equipment and beds at the Kenyatta University Referral Hospital.
    File
  • Simon Karuga, a Kenyatta University student has developed a 3D printer prototype capable of mass-producing Covid-19 nasopharyngeal swabs.

    The biotechnology student has made the most of universities closing down due to the pandemic to come up with the innovation in six weeks.

    "What triggered me was one day I was watching the news, of course, I've been following the pandemic because I was just about to graduate and with Covid-19 in the country, it means that we were disrupted from our normal programmes.

    Kenyatta University Referral Hospital main entrance area.
    Kenyatta University Referral Hospital main entrance area.
    File

    "One day I remember the CS of Health, Mutahi Kagwe, saying that there is a shortage of reagents and testing kits and one of the things that he complained about was the importation of nasopharyngeal swabs," explained Karuga.

    Karuga approached an associate lecturer in the university about the idea, who then convinced the school to purchase three sets of 3D printers now being used to produce the swabs locally.

    CS Kagwe had appealed to the Kenyan youth to become part of the solution to the Covid-19 problem that the country is facing.

    The Ministry has a number of times highlighted the shortage of nasopharyngeal swabs which has hampered their mass testing drive.

    "I'm very proud, innovation is everywhere, innovation does not have to come from the professor, students sometimes make the best innovations.

    "Ours is to support those ideas and make them scientifically sound and support them all the way to production," noted Karuga's lecturer.

    Karuga is able to produce 3,000 swabs in a day but hopes to scale up production to about 100,000 swabs after every 24 hours.

    His innovation is yet to be commercialised as he requires a clinical validation from the Ministry of Health. His lecturer explained that a team was developed to help with the trials.

    The swabs also have an easy breaking point to reduce contamination in the labs when medics share scissors to cut them in order to run the tests.

    The swabs are considered "Class A" medical equipment by the World Health Organisation and can only be produced in registered medical facilities and research institutes.

    Health officer administers a Covid-19 test on a local at Biafra Medical centre in Kamukunji on Friday, May 15, 2020.
    Health officer administers a Covid-19 test on a local at Biafra Medical centre in Kamukunji on Friday, May 15, 2020.
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