UA Biology Professor Supports Hospital COVID-19 Testing

  • April 20th, 2020
Carol Duffy smiles for portrait.
Dr. Carol Duffy

As with many things used by health care workers during the pandemic, there is a shortage of the solution used to preserve coronavirus testing samples during transport to testing labs.

Dr. Carol Duffy, associate professor of biological sciences, offered to create a batch of the solution for DCH Health System to maintain the stability of patient samples collected at DCH during transport to a lab in Montgomery.

“DCH is so very grateful to Dr. Duffy and The University of Alabama for the support and assistance,” said Bryan Kindred, president of DCH Health System. “Without this support it would be very difficult to continue the testing initiative.”

Working from her lab, Duffy has created and delivered a batch of 800 viral transport media, or VTM, toward a goal of 4,000 tubes for DCH.

“Lots of people want to help however they can. This was something I had the knowledge and equipment to do,” Duffy said. “It would have been shameful to not lend a hand.”

Duffy, a microbiologist and virologist, researches viruses in her lab on campus, and making VTM-like solutions is a normal part of her research. Personnel at DCH found Duffy through the UA website and reached out to see if she would make the solution as ready-made VTMs are becoming limited.

A sample collected during a swab of a patient tested for coronavirus is put into a tube, sealed and prepared for transport. The tube contains a solution that preserves the specimen until it is tested. It contains antimicrobials such as an antibiotic and an antifungal to prevent microbial growth.

“Stabilizing the virus is important for accurate test results,” Duffy said.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.