LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Governor Greg Abbott’s Open Texas report this week recognized the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center for helping the state reach its goal in expanding COVID-19 testing across the state.
Specifically, he applauded the School of Pharmacy in Amarillo for stepping up and mass producing VTMs, a key part of testing, as important as the nasal swab. VTM stands for Viral Transport Medium.
That’s the little tube that carries the sample from the nasal swab to the lab to determine if it’s positive or negative.
Researchers at the TTU School of Pharmacy tested a formula from the World Health Organization, then another one from the CDC, to come up with the right solution to put inside that vial when it goes to a testing site. Dr. Eric McLaughlin, Pharm, D., chair of Pharmacy Practice, explains, “It’s a special fluid that’s got a buffering solution and a few other things in there. It’s got some antibiotics in there and an anti-fungal as well so it prevents bacteria growth.” He says that even though the coronavirus can be deadly, it’s vulnerable inside a tube and needs to be protected. He says, “It’s a little bit sensitive and so it needs to have a special fluid to protect it on the way to the lab so it can be analyzed. So that’s what that viral transport media is – it allows us to transport it from the patient to the lab so that it can get testing done.”
What began as an effort to help has turned into a massive undertaking that has pulled together a large team of scientists and leaders throughout the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. Dr. McLaughlin says, “We’ve ramped up production. We’ve made close to 28,000 so far. We thought we’d be doing this until commercial manufacturers come on board but obviously there’s been a huge demand not just in Texas but across the nation and across the world, so that has really limited supplies.”
Dr. McLaughlin says they are continuing to help because even commercial production can’t keep up with the demand. Recently, they led a webinar from the School of Pharmacy to show others how to produce these special vials.
Also, a team from the Texas Tech School of Engineering has joined in the effort, producing 10 thousand vials with another 10 thousand coming soon.
For more on the testing vials and this effort from TTUHSC to help in the fight against COVID-19, listen to more from Dr. McLaughlin in the full interview on this page.