Choosing the Right Viral Transport Medium: What Really Matters
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked huge demand for test kits, bringing along an unexpected sidekick - viral transport mediums (VTMs) for preserving coronavirus samples. Seemingly overnight, the once obscure VTM has become a booming business. Faced with hundreds of options, how does one even begin to choose? What really matters in a VTM?
1. How expensive is it?
Frankly, the formulas are quite basic and comparable. Some manufacturers simply reuse tried-and-true recipes like saline solution. VTM prices have already "plummeted 3,000 feet down" with some even "flying close to the ground."
2. How long does it last?
We often worry about RNA degradation. But in the times of 4-6 hour turnaround for test results, there's barely time for self-destruction, much less significant breakdown. Even for archival samples, freezing remains the only reliable method for long-term storage.
Preservation time is a non-issue.
3. Does it spoil?
VTMs can spoil and grow mold/bacteria over time. The crystal clear liquid suddenly turns cloudy or grows "unseemly stains," forcing us to discard the whole batch. As Warren Buffett said, if you spot one cockroach in the kitchen, there is likely more than one. It's impossible to know which other contaminated batches are still in use and causing issues.
Preventing contamination during production and quality control is challenging but manageable through clean rooms, antibiotics, etc.
Again, not a real problem.
4. Does it leak?
Some VTMs arrive with the tubes already leaking liquid. With condensation dripping down tubes, stains on packaging, hands, counters, and equipment, the lab environment can easily get contaminated.
During rough shipping or air pressure changes, boxes may leak out entire batches. Domestic issues are one thing, but overseas shipment returns, contract breaches etc. become highly troublesome. Still, with care taken in materials, design, manufacturing, and pressure testing, leaks should not occur.
Once more, preventable.
5. What's the real issue?
As Mao Zedong taught us, "Seek truth from facts." Visiting dozens of frontline sampling stations and labs, we discovered the biggest pain point was incredibly mundane - closing the tubes.
Tubes seal at a certain torque. But hand strength varies. How tight is tight enough? When do you stop twisting? With no clear benchmarks, manufacturers over-torque to prevent leaks. Sampling staff struggle to open the tubes. Worried about leaks, they re-seal with all their might. PCR technicians repeat this over hundreds of tubes daily.
Blisters, cuts, and callouses become a fact of life. As staff joke, the thick calluses on their thumbs and index fingers may one day sprout butterfly wings - Romeo and Juliet of the lab world.
The simple nuisance of tube closing causes real productivity and ergonomic troubles for those on the frontlines fighting the pandemic. Therein lies the true, if prosaic problem for VTMs.
Click to View → Mantacc Viral Transport Medium
Mantacc provides customized viral transport mediums (VTMs) matched to your exact COVID testing needs and workflow. Our R&D innovations are driven by real-world feedback from the diagnostic frontlines. We rapidly incorporate insights on VTM formulations, handling, and assay compatibility to improve products for you. Let our responsive support teams co-create the optimum VTM solution for your evolving laboratory. Contact Mantacc today to explore a tailored partnership.