Unpad researchers create room-temperature VTM

Viral Transport Medium or VTM product for storing Covid-19 swab examination samples based on an iceless transport system. (Photo: UNPAD)

IO, Bandung – Researchers from Padjadjaran University (Unpad), Bandung, have developed various innovative Viral Transport Medium (VTM) products to store Covid-19 swab examination samples. Uniquely, these VTM products, namely, VitPAD, i-blue, and C-transport, are based on an “iceless transport system” and do not require refrigeration before heading to a laboratory. The three products were developed by Hesti Lina Wiraswati, Lia Faridah, Savira Ekawardhani, and Shabarni Gaffar of the Covid-19 Laboratory of Unpad Teaching Hospital. 

Existing VTM products require refrigerated storage, at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius, either before inserting the sample or after inserting the sample. All of the innovative products of Unpad researchers can withstand room temperature after inserting the sample. “VitPAD, i-blue, and C-transport are both free of ice for storage,” said Hesti, as quoted by Unpad.ac.id, Monday (18/1/2021). There are differences, especially in terms of durability. VitPAD was able to survive at room temperature for 14 days after adding samples, while i-blue and C-transport were able to survive unrefrigerated for 7 days. The three products are buffer based. The VTM buffer will allow the samples to be stored at room temperature, eliminating the need to use cold storage. 

The products created by Hesti and the team are different from the type of medium widely used in the marketplace. Medium-based VTM requires special storage at a temperature of 2–8 degrees Celsius. Thus, VitPAD, i-blue, and C-transport are very effective when used in locations that do not have special VTM storage facilities or locations that are far from test laboratory facilities. 

“There are locations where it is difficult to find ice or refrigeration. If you use these products you don’t need any. The samples remain safe, and also safe for the environment,” said Lia. 

Apart from being stable at room temperature, these three products also contain formulas in the form of denatures or substances to inactivate virus samples. When the virus sample is inserted, the substance will inactivate the virus so that part of the virus has only RNA left, so this product will not be infectious even if it is stored in an ordinary storage box. “The risk is low,” added Shabarni. 

From the results of tests conducted by the team, VitPAD, i-blue, and C-transport were able to withstand relatively hot temperature conditions, such as 40–50 degrees Celsius. “We checked at this temperature, where the temperature is the highest in Indonesia, then tested the quality of the sample, it turns out that the virus can still be tested. This means that this product is good for sample transportation in areas with hot temperatures so that it can be stored without using a cooler in the car,” said Hesti. 

Competitive Price 

Savira said that the prices of VitPAD, i-blue, and C-transport are relatively competitive with similar products in the market. This is because the formula of this product uses materials that are inexpensive but have the same quality as VTM products in general. “Because this is the result of our research, we are looking for competitive materials.” 

Since it is buffer-based, the components of the maker are not as complicated as ordinary VTM, so there are formulas in ordinary products that are not added to the three products. Even though there was a reduction in the formula, the team still pays attention to the quality of the products being developed. The team has also conducted tests related to the effect of this reduction in achieving the desired goal, which is to facilitate VTM transportation without damaging the sample. “We have proven that this is still the same as VTM with such a complicated formula,” said Savira. 

I-blue and C-transport products have received distribution permits from the Ministry of Health. Lia said that the products have been used in several hospitals, health clinics, and have been supplied to several ministries. “They are happy because they don’t need to use ice or refrigeration; they don’t need to complicate transport,” said Lia. (est)