Team at TTUHSC produces thousands of VTM vials for COVID-19 testing

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — With limited components for COVID-19 testing across the state, a team at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is helping by producing viral transport media testing vials.

Viral transport media (VTM) is a special solution that is used to collect patient samples so COVID-19 testing can be done.

Eric Maclaughlin, Pharm. D., is a professor and the chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the TTUHSC Jerry H. Hodge school of Pharmacy. He said, “Right now VTM is in huge shortage, really throughout the country and particularly in the Texas Panhandle, especially as a lot of VTM is being routed to a lot of hot spots in the country.”

Professors and scientists at TTUHSC saw the lack of vials for testing and teamed up with a private pharmacy, MedicusRx, to develop thousands of their own.

With the newest batch produced by TTUHSC, they said they have now produced about 6,600 vials. That is equivalent to about 7% of all COVID-19 tests done in the state so far.

Mikala Conatser, PHARM. D, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at TTUHSC, said, “…our science colleagues, they a couple of ingredients come from them, and they have to defrost it and do some like heat treatment and stuff to the product and then it comes to us in our sterile room.”

Each vial they produce is for one COVID-19 nasal swab. Dr. Maclaughlin said those vials are now ready for field use.

“Having these allows us to expand our scope as far as who we can test and allows much better data to come into the Public Health department, showing what are our trends? How are we doing here in this community?”

Dr. Maclaughlin also said it has been a team effort to produce more VTM.

“The one nice thing that we’ve been able to demonstrate here with this team approach is this approach is scalable,” he added. “So areas like Lubbock or other areas of the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and even in the whole state of Texas. You know, there’s a huge shortage of VTM. This can definitely be scaled up.”

Dr. Maclaughlin also said there are several private cleanrooms in Amarillo where VTM could be made.

The doctors at TTUHSC say we can expect with more testing resources, there will likely be a correlation of more confirmed COVID-19 cases in our area.


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