Editorial Article: The importance of maintaining sample integrity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Amanda Kulwicki, Global Brand Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, discusses how her team ensures sample integrity with confidence

30 Mar 2021

Viral transport media ensures sample integrity Vigen Mnoyan © 123RF.com 

Sample collection, storage, and transportation safety have never been more important than in the COVID-19 era. As the pandemic continues to surge, so does the global demand for viral transport media (VTM) to help ensure sample integrity. Without appropriate means of carrying out these three key processes, samples can become contaminated, reducing their viability and infectivity and potentially increasing the risk of COVID-19 false-negative results.

In this SelectScience interview, we speak with Amanda Kulwicki, Global Brand Manager of Clinical Culture Media at Thermo Fisher Scientific, to find out how Thermo Fisher Scientific addresses the challenge of maintaining sample integrity when transporting delicate specimens and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the collection, storage, and transport of VTM.

How important is sample integrity when collecting and transporting specimens?

AK: VTM is a critical part of the workflow in getting viral samples, including coronavirus samples collected, transported, and tested. Viruses are susceptible to adverse environmental conditions and require specific transport media to maintain viability while in transit to the laboratory. 
What VTM challenges are your customers facing and how does Thermo Fisher Scientific help overcome these issues?

AK: Currently there is an unprecedented global demand for VTM. Throughout the pandemic, Thermo Fisher Scientific has been closely monitoring the evolving situation for any potential impact on our business to ensure we can continue to manufacture and deliver the products and services our customers rely on. This includes carefully managing our inventory, production, and supply chains.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has been following Centre of Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, and has ramped up manufacturing of alternative products for viral collection and transportation, such as sterile saline, and offers bulk swabs to customers. 

How has Thermo Fisher Scientific responded to COVID-related VTM shortages? 

AK: Thermo Fisher Scientific is working to combat the COVID-19 pandemic from all angles, not just VTM. We are producing diagnostic tests, providing personal protective equipment, and have even modified our production lines to create necessary materials such as components for ventilators and hand sanitizer.  We are also partnering with pharma and biotech customers who are working on many of the top projects to produce COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

Our operations have been running around the clock, given our essential role in supporting the global response to the pandemic. We have expanded our manufacturing capabilities at sites around the world to support the vast increase in demand for viral transport media globally, with capacity to manufacture 15 million tubes per week.

How has COVID-19 impacted the collection, storage, and transport of specimens?

AK: The increase in testing has placed tremendous pressure on laboratories. Customers need a ready-to-use product, with strong, break and leak-resistant tubes and there is a need for flexibility in both transport and storage of products.

What are the important considerations when selecting the right collection and transport products?

AK: Look for a product that has proven performance; Thermo Fisher Scientific is a trusted media manufacturer and supplier with over 150 years of technical and scientific expertise in serving the microbiology community. 

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