Public health toxicologists in Adelaide, South Australia, have developed illicit drug detection kits that will analyse samples within 48 hours through their startup Swab First.
The first kits will test for seven drugs: cocaine, heroin, cannabis, nicotine, amphetamine, methamphetamine (ice and speed) and MDMA (ecstasy). However, Swab First director Dr Len Turczynowicz said the technology was capable of testing for 47 substances.
Dr Turczynowicz said the innovative dry swab sampling device had been developed and patented by Swab First while the instrumentation was similar to what was used at airports to test samples for explosive residue testing.
He said industry professionals such as real estate agents would be trained as authorised collectors to ensure samples were collected correctly from household surfaces as part of routine inspections.
“It’s not an offer that’s around anywhere else, it’s a new approach,” Dr Turczynowicz said.
“We thought carefully about what the issues and problems are in this space and we realised there was a significant deficiency in rapid methods of evaluation.
“It’s simple, cost-effective, robust and highly sensitive in its ability to detect things.”
Results are provided in a written report and on a mobile app, along with remedies to remove any contamination found, within 48 hours of sample receipt at the Swab First laboratory.
Pricing varies from about $220 for testing prior to the commencement and again at the end of a tenancy through to an annual $330 fee for quarterly screening.
Dr Turczynowicz said he expected there to be a broad client base ranging from real estate agents, property managers, conveyancers and property inspectors through to defence housing and university accommodation providers.
He said the product would initially be sold in South Australia with a national and global launch to follow with a focus on the United States and China.
“We’re certainly looking at rolling it out further, we’ve secured domain names internationally,” Dr Turczynowicz said.
“We’ve tried to meet an area of need in terms of the protection of public health and I think we’ve developed a system that is sorely needed.
“The nature of the screening process means you don’t have to spend thousands at the start but if a red flag is raised then you can go and do some more detailed testing.
“The issue is to have something that’s cost effective yet simple, robust and highly sensitive.”
Swab First started last year and is based at TechInSA, South Australia’s high-tech startup accelerator in the capital Adelaide.
Dr Turczynowicz said he had known of cases where houses had to be demolished because they were so contaminated with illicit drug residue.
He said Swab First’s motto was “we measure what you can’t see”.
“Having things there that you can’t see can become a significant problem in particular for small children.
“There seems to be an increase in the prevalence of use and these things don’t degrade very easily so they can build up if people are constantly using drugs in places.
“Certainly in terms of a risk management exercise a screening process of this nature would bring a lot of confidence to the process.”Jump to next article