“A team of public health and medical experts from around Malaysia has been working with the MPMA and the Malaysian Petrochemicals Association (MPA) to make the specialised nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab sticks and contribute 1.2 million swabs for COVID-19 tests,” MPMA said in statement today.
University of Malaya’s Medical Faculty Professor Dr Tan Maw Pin said: “Pre-clinical testing suggests that the swabs we produced are performing well.”
She said Malaysia has a successful plastics industry which has been able to manufacture the polyester fibres and the plastics shafts which make up the swabs.
“We are currently working to expedite the process of obtaining the necessary funding and approvals for clinical trials, as well as an approval from the Medical Devices Authority (MDA) so that the swabs can go into production and distribution as soon as possible,” she said.
The swabs produced will be used for diagnostic testing for flu and other virus illness in future and will continue to be useful even after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Buying millions of nose swabs needed from overseas is probably not feasible at this time,” she said.
Tan is part of an expert team tasked with identifying and contacting local factories which agreed to repurpose their production lines to make the different components for the swabs.
The team derives from Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Penang Hospital, Perdana Universiti-Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and University of Malaya’s Medical Faculty.
MPMA president Datuk Lim Kok Boon said the nation does not have any facilities to make swabs, which are expected to be in short supply world-wide.
“Malaysia needs to be self-sufficient in producing these specialised swabs which are in high demand around the world now,” he said.
The US, where Malaysia’s main suppliers are, has banned the export of medical goods which includes these swabs.
Alternative suppliers are in Italy and are also struggling to keep up with demand.
China makes these swabs but there are hurdles in securing supply amid high demand and in importing and transporting the swabs.
This initiative is in partnership with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry which has allowed resumption of operations to manufacturers of essential plastics products under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).
MPMA, established in 1967, is the official voice of the Malaysian plastics industry, representing its members and the industry in government interaction, spearheading the plastics industry's growth and providing the platforms to assist members to be globally competitive.