A group of scientists from Korea has developed a robot for administering nasal swab coronavirus tests for patients. To avoid transmitting the virus from patients to health care workers and vice versa, scientists believe that this machine could soon be a standard in hospitals worldwide.
The system is controlled by a joystick, which allows the staff to maneuver the machine from another room, watching through a screen. The machine then probes the nose with a long nasal swab to grab samples from deep within the nasal cavity.
The machine setup includes a head stabilizer, which allows the patient to rest their head on during the slightly uncomfortable procedure. The joystick also comes with a "force feedback" that helps the machine operator "feel" what they are doing to ensure proper performance of the procedure.
According to Dr. Seo Joon-ho from the Medical Device Lab of The Daegu Convergence Technology Research Center, they hope that their technology will soon be used as one of the methods in performing coronavirus diagnostic tests. Aside from COVID-19, the researchers from the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials believe that their machine would help reduce the transmission of other infectious diseases in a secure medical environment.
How Does the Nasal Swab Test for COVID-19 Work?
According to Dr. Micah M, Bhatti, an assistant professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, the nasal swab test for coronavirus involves a long stick inserted deep inside the nostril.
At the end of the stick is a very soft and tiny brush, somewhat similar to a pipe cleaner. The nurse or health technician will then twirl it inside for a few seconds once deep enough in the nasal cavity.
The soft bristles will then collect a sample of secretions for analysis. It could somewhat be compared to a pap smear. To obtain a good specimen, the probe must go pretty far back to get to where the concentrated cells and fluid are. Once a sample is obtained, it will then be sent to the lab for analysis.
Machines and Robots Helping to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many scientists and researchers have tried to develop innovations to involve robotics to lessen the human transmission of the virus. For instance, in Wuhan, some hospitals used robots to deliver medications to patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Moreover, technological solutions go beyond hospitals, as many people were left quarantined in their homes due to lockdowns. To address the problem, the Chinese government provided logistics robots to deliver essential goods such as food and medical supplies to homes in Wuhan.
Meanwhile, at the Wuchang field hospital, a ward was staffed with 5G-powered robots. It not only lessened the strain on human staff but also helped contain the contagion.
To add to the list, a delivery app called Meituan Dianping also inclined their "contactless delivery" options through robots and autonomous vehicles. Pudu Technology, a Shenzhen-based startup, wanted to reduce the infection rate by implementing home delivery of meals and drugs through a robot.
Finally, a Danish company also shipped robots to Chinese hospitals that would disinfect rooms occupied by coronavirus positive patients. The robots sterilized the facility by emitting ultraviolet light. The bot could be controlled by a remote, which ensures that healthcare workers remain safe while maneuvering them.