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OSU researchers produce critical COVID-19 test component

The veterinary hospital at Oregon State has come up with a way to help humans getting tested for coronavirus

CORVALLIS, Ore. — It all started last week when Samaritan Health Services asked Oregon State University if there was anything the university could do to help.

That's when scientists in the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine realized their lab already had everything to make the fluid needed to transport patient samples to testing facilities. 

The testing for COVID-19 involves sticking a specialized swab deep into the nose. To get those swabs to a testing facility, medical providers must store them in tubes filled with Viral Transport Medium or VTM. 

"It's a preservative that's needed to maintain the integrity of the of the sample so they can be sent out for for testing," Justin Sanders, a researcher with Oregon State, said. 

VTM is the critical COVID-19 test component the OSU veterinary diagnostic lab is now able to produce for Oregon hospitals. 

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"We're part of a national laboratory network that looks at important agricultural diseases, so we have to have that capacity to produce samples process samples and test them in a very rapid manner," Sanders said. 

He coordinated with virologist Wendy Black and made 3 liters of the fluid, enough for 1,000 tests.

"That's really what we do in veterinary medicine. We are right there at the interface between animals and people. Our lives are so linked tightly that this is a very natural type of thing to happen," Sanders said.

The fluids were delivered to Samaritan Health Services in Corvallis last week. Sanders said they've had a few more requests from Oregon hospitals and clinics to produce more of the fluid.

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