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Plasma Activation | 2 min read

How to Improve Sample Collection in Medical Diagnostic Test Kits

Written by: George Osenga

It is often difficult to quickly obtain a large sample from a patient on a cotton swab when performing a COVID-19 test. A simple solution would be to use a cotton swab that has been plasma treated so that the swab being used is activated and will absorb more testable material during the same test.

By plasma activating a medical test swab as part of the manufacturing process, the swab's surface energy is higher than the surface energy of the patient sample in a test subject's nasal cavity. The swab's higher surface energy enables a larger sample to be obtained so that the results will be more efficient and provide more reliable results. Plasma activating the swab increases the swab's surface energy, and the mucosa will adhere and adsorb more to the activated cotton.

The video below shows a simple process on how activation of a COVID medical test swab can be achieved by using a plasma treatment process. It then shows the difference between an activated swab versus a swab has not been activated (a standard test swab). The results are very conclusive and straightforward to see with just a quick view of the video.

Also seen in the video is the result of the plasma activation on how much liquid the activated swab can absorb. The activated swab will absorb four times more of a sample than a swab in its natural state (untreated). Another significant aspect of the plasma activation is that the treatment will last as long as needed for the kit to be viable. The treatment shelf life for the activation lasts as long as a test kit's expected shelf life. This means that as long as the test kit is designed to work for, the activated swab will provide an increase in sample volume collected.

medical-swab-test-study-coverA very significant test has been performed on the wettability and RNA adsorption of the Sars-COV-2 RNA strain in relation to the plasma treatment of swabs and untreated swabs as well. The basis of the results regarding the adsorption was that the plasma-treated swabs absorb approximately four times more liquid than the untreated swabs. For the RNA adsorption results, all the reactions to the strain are still positive. The RNA is not irreversibly adsorbed on treated or untreated swabs. In simpler terms, this means that the treated swabs still obtain the same results as the untreated swabs and have the advantage of getting a larger, more reliable sample during the swabbing portion of the patient test portion. A copy of this test may be downloaded by anyone interested by clicking on the image of the report to the right or this link.

When testing for a virus or disease, it is essential to obtain accurate results. Capturing a larger sample can minimize false or inaccurate results. With the plasma-activated swabs used in many tests, a larger sample to test can be obtained. It is always better to capture a larger sample, which will lead to a more accurate test result.

To receive and test these plasma-treated swabs, manufacturers can request samples of treated and untreated swabs of the exact materials by contacting Thierry Plasma. Manufacturers can also request to have their supply of swabs plasma-treated to evaluate the results for themselves by requesting a plasma test study. It is often imperative for medical device manufacturers to validate their test kits' capability, so the results and tests are as accurate as they can be. For something as crucial as COVID-19 tests, the results can be imperative for everyone they come into contact with.

Medical device manufacturers can benefit from implementing a plasma system to their manufacturing line to activate swabs in their sample collection kits. This will allow for an improved sample collection for COVID-19 or similar test kits that require a significant sample or reliable test results. An improved swab or larger sample collection effort would significantly improve accuracy and reliable test results when processed to obtain a positive or negative determination. An initial proof of concept can be requested from Thierry if swabs are provided by the manufacturer.

To learn more about the benefits of surface activation of materials including medical devices like test swabs, please read our article titled "Manufacturer’s Surface Activation Guide for Improved Adhesion."

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