University labs developing COVID-19 testing materials

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois and Carle are partnering to tackle the testing shortage in our state. The shortage of testing is the reason many without symptoms have been turned away, but as the need for widespread testing becomes more apparent, researchers at the University of Illinois are doing something about it.

They are making swabs and viral transport media or VTM. VTM is used for preserving swabs until they can be tested. “In this country, our response is really gonna depend upon scientists, healthcare workers, kindof stepping up and volunteering what they can, so I feel like it’s my responsibility to do what I can to help out,” said University of Illinois Assistant Microbiology Professor Christopher Brooke.

The University of Illinois has been sending VTM to Carle for several weeks now. They just sent their first shipment to the Illinois Department of Public Health in Springfield. Brooke says their current goal is to make 35,000 VTM’s a week. That’s enough for 35,000 tests. However, that could change depending on what’s needed.

There are four different parts to the COVID-19 testing process. Swabs and VTM are the first two steps in the testing process. That’s followed by something that extracts the viral genomes from the swab, and the fourth is testing what’s extracted.

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