🗞 A nose for solutions: Axel’s smart idea for painless COVID tests

Axel, aged 12, invented a tool to help medics learn how to test for corona virus.

When corona virus came along a few months ago, Axel, who’s 12, wanted to help.

He saw on TV how people were being tested to see if they had the virus. Have you seen those tests? A nurse or a doctor pokes a stick in your nose.

It hurts if they don’t do it right. Plus, they often miss the “target”, where the virus sits way back above our throat. Many test results are wrong. Axel learned that lots of medical staff aren’t fully trained in poking noses with sticks. Ouch!


How could he help? He’s not a nose surgeon. Or a medical professor. He’s at school. Though he would like to be a doctor when he’s older.

He did a lot of reading about the problem. Then, bingo! He had it.

What medics needed was practice. Fast. But if they practised on human “guinea pigs”, that would be a quick way to get sore noses!

Axel’s solution?

Enter the nose…

Axel shows off his nose!

A life-size plastic nose. No, not the kind a clown puts on!

You can see Axel here showing you his invention ; a model of a real human nose with all the tubes and canals on the inside. It’s quite a maze in there!

Axel got talking with his dad, who’s a hospital doctor in Strasbourg, a French city where there was a lot of corona virus. With help from other medics and technical experts, they managed to build a model.

In the “target zone”, right at the back of the nose, Axel added some paper covered in red ink. If a nurse pokes through to exactly the right spot, they get ink on their cotton-wool swab. That proves they’ve hit the bullseye!

Watch how Axel’s nose helps medics hit the bullseye!

They used 3D printing, with hard and soft plastic to copy the bony and fleshy bits of our noses. That way, Axel can generously publish free instructions on the Internet and people with 3D printers anywhere in the world can make one of their own.

A tip for you…

More and more people need to be tested as we stop staying at home. So his invention comes at a vital time.

Friends thought Axel’s plastic nose was pretty good, he says. Though some of them found it a bit “gross”. That doesn’t put him off, though.

You’re never too young to have really important ideas. And as Axel told our readers:

“When you have ideas, you have to see them through to the end.”

boy with red nose


Millions of people will be tested for coronavirus by putting a stick up their nose. Many testers have little experience, which risks sore noses and poor results.

3d printed nose


A realistic, plastic nose, downloaded to a 3D printer. Medics can practise till they are pain-free and on-target every time!

Grown-ups’ follow-up

The team involved in bringing Axel Sananes‘ idea to reality included: Strasbourg-based ENT medical device firm Dianosic, Paris-based medical 3D printing firm Bone 3D, the Strasbourg public teaching hospitals CHRU Strasbourg and Protège Ton Soignant, a crowd-funding campaign to buy equipment for medics during the crisis, which donated over €6,000 to build the prototype.

Although there is a lot of talk of other kinds of tests for the virus, checking for antibodies in the blood and so on, nasal testing remains the main way to determine whether or not someone is currently infected and infectious. With lockdown easing, millions more such tests are likely to be carried out, many by people with little experience of the procedure. So let’s hope Axel’s nose gets widely distributed!

You can watch Axel and his father Nicolas Sananes present the simulator here on Instagram. (In French)

And finally, our top tip from discovering Axel’s story – if you ever have to be tested for corona virus, just make sure the tester goes in PERPENDICULAR to your face. Pushing the swab up the nose is a recipe for discomfort and false negatives!

Alastair editor of WoW!

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