China Develops Self-help Covid-19 throat swab sampling machine

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Chinese researchers have developed a labor-saving machine that enables users to take throat swab samples for COVID-19 testing by themselves, without the aid of any medical staff.

“The machine is convenient, allowing users to perform quick self-service sampling for the diagnosis of COVID-19, which would reduce cross-infection risks for medical workers,” said lead researcher Xiao Liehui, with the Shenzhen Hospital of Southern Medical University.

Jointly developed by Xiao’s hospital and a Shenzhen-based tech company, the machine made its debut at the 22nd China Hi-Tech Fair, which concluded on Sunday in Shenzhen.

After the user completes the identity verification through an ID card and face recognition, the machine will provide sampling tools. Under video guidance, the user wears gloves, scans codes, collects throat swabs, and sends back samples to the machine. The whole process will take approximately five minutes.

“Compared with the average manual sampling time of three minutes, the speed of the machine is slower, but it can operate 24 hours a day, which will save a great deal of manual labor and improve sampling efficiency,” said Liu Yajie, vice president of the hospital.

The nucleic acid test is one of the most important diagnostic methods for COVID-19. The current sampling process requires the medical staff to wear heavy protective suits to be in close contact with patients. Inserting a swab into the throat can cause the patient to cough, which may send droplets into the medical staff’s faces.

The patented machine has undergone clinical trials and is likely to move into mass production in 2021, according to a hospital statement.

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