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EIU Faculty Make Viral Transport Media for SBL

April 17, 2020 10:40 a.m.

  • Gary Bulla, Ph.D.

EIU faculty teamed together to help Sarah Bush Lincoln and community members by making viral transport media, an agent that stabilizes specimens while they are being sent to laboratories for testing.


The media is a formula that includes antibiotics to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth, without affecting viruses, and is necessary to collect specimens for COVID-19 testing.


EIU Biological Sciences Department Chair and Professor Gary Bulla, Ph.D., and his team used the procedure published by the CDC and made enough of the viral transport media for 3,400 COVID-19 collection kits. It is being delivered to Sarah Bush Lincoln Laboratory this week where it will be labeled and packaged with the pharyngeal swabs.


SBL Laboratory Director Jodie Warner, explained that EIU is fulfilling a real need the viral transport media is primarily produced in Germany and Italy, and there is a global shortage.


Warner expressed her appreciation for EIU faculty’s willingness to help the local medical community. “Without the help of these good people, we would be more limited in our ability to collect specimens. This viral transport media is crucial to preserve the specimen as it is transported to a testing lab.” She added that while SBL has supplies to collect more specimens, the same requirements for testing prevail.


Warner further explained that depending on the methods and equipment available to each laboratory, and where testing is performed, processing specimens can be terribly labor intensive and that is often why the turnaround is days instead of hours. It takes time for vendors to ramp up production of faster, more automated methods, and improvements are being made, but the basic need still remains for collection supplies to obtain the specimens for testing. That is why we are so grateful to our EIU colleagues for the viral transport media.


Bulla is not new to making media as he makes it often for his classes and studies, but has not made it for clinical use. “It’s good to be a part of the process and help our local hospital,” He said. Bulla added that making sterile media requires specific equipment  and EIU has this equipment.


Dr. Bulla’s team includes faculty and staff  members from the Department of Biological Sciences: Kai F. Hung, Ph.D. associate professor  Sanghoon Kang, Ph.D , assistant professor; the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry: Michael W. Beck, Ph.D., assistant professor; Maria Dust, lab manager, Gopal Periyannan , Ph.D., professor; Edward Treadwell, Ph.D., professor; and Roger Osthoff, MT ASCP, laboratory supervisor at EIU Health Services.

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