UNT Health Science Center helps make key part of COVID-19 test

UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth is one of many schools across the country helping with a key part of coronavirus testing.

Many laboratories are finding it difficult to get the solution needed to preserve the test sample, so the CDC posted the recipe for laboratories to create their own and local pharmacy schools are helping fill the void.

“We didn't even think about it. We immediately said yes. Set it up pretty fast as well,” said Dr. Michail Kastellorizios, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Dressed in head-to-toe personal protective equipment, the team is working in a sterile compounding lab making Viral Transport Media. The solution is an essential component for COVID-19 swab testing.

“It's basically the vial with some fluid inside of it that the patient's swab will go into,” Kastellorizios said.

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The college was contacted by the Tarrant County Health Department.

“We're also finding some difficulty buying the supplies. I've been buying in advance, this morning even more supplies, to make sure we have what we need to keep providing,” Kastellorizios said.

The team of four sets up an assembly line of sorts -- producing a couple hundred VTM tubes over the course of a few hours. Each has a specific task.

“We’ve done this a few times so it's getting faster and easier,” Kastellorizios said.

The liquid is a combination of salt protein and antibiotics. The team is working to manufacture a total of 1,600 vials for Tarrant County, possibly tapping pharmacy students to help out.

“So far we've been coming two days a week. This is the last week of the semester of the finals so next week we may have more time,” Kastellorizios said. “I never expected that we would be doing this and we're hoping to scale this to more production.”

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