When the world was in the vacation mode to celebrate the New Year’s Eve, heartbreaking news surfaced in the media. Several people from the Wuhan city, Hubei Province of China were admitted to hospitals for cases reporting pneumonia.
On the 31st December 2019, WHO was alerted for several cases of pneumonia and as days passed the numbers started rising. The difficulty in identifying the viral pathogen was also creating concern and panic among the people around the world. On 7th Jan, the Chinese authorities confirmed that it is a new virus belonging to the family “Coronavirus”. This novel virus has some known close relatives like SARS and MERS and is temporarily named 2019- nCoV.
This virus is believed to have an incubation period of about two weeks and usually causes respiratory ailments like fever, cough and pneumonia with severe complications. The exact way of their transmission is not fully known. However, they are believed to be spreading from person to person mainly via respiratory droplets just like their cousins-MERS or SARS.
The coronavirus disease has already caused more than 2700 cases of health emergencies in china (as of 27th Jan) and 106 people have lost their lives in the outbreak. According to the WHO, the disease has spread to many other parts of the world like Japan, Thailand, the Republic of Korea and even the USA with new confirmed cases being reported every day. The count of people being infected has already raised to more than 4500.
The CDC recommends collecting specimens’ type- The Respiratory specimen and the Serum specimens, for increasing the likelihood of detecting the infection. The CDC guidelines and WHO suggests collecting the Nasopharyngeal /Oropharyngeal specimens in the viral transport media from the upper respiratory tract before culturing and identifying the Virus with PCR. The nutritionally rich Viral transport media(VTM) will help in keeping the virus viable till it is received by the hospital for its diagnostic testing.
The VTM also contains antibiotics and antifungal agents in it that prevents the proliferation of competing bacteria and yeasts. The media is ideally provided with Nasopharyngeal and/or oropharyngeal swabs.
The nasopharyngeal specimen is usually collected by inserting the swab into the patient’s nose to the depth of the nasopharyngeal area (beyond the turbinate) and then gently rubbing it to absorb the secretions. The oropharyngeal specimen, on the other hand, is collected by swabbing the posterior oropharyngeal mucosal membrane.
The next step of the collection method involves the immediate placing of the swabs into the separate sterile tubes of VTM, just after its collection. Thus, for better recovery, it is recommended to refrigerate the samples at 2 °C to 8 °C or ship overnight to the testing laboratory on ice pack.
To make it more convenient, the VTM tubes are provided with labels containing spaces for filling up the samples’ details like patients name, age, date/time of collection which helps the doctors to maintain the records as per their protocol.
In conclusion, it can be said that the Viral transport media has made the testing of viral infection possible allowing maximum recovery. The appropriate collection of the sample will make timely and accurate detection successful.