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UNLV scientists help fight COVID-19

Posted at 7:41 AM, May 07, 2020

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Professors and students at UNLV are working together to create a needed component for COVID-19 test kits.

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As the race to stop coronavirus continues, a team of UNLV scientists are helping the Southern Nevada Health District and valley hospitals in the best way they can.
Professors and students are working together to create a solution called a viral transport medium — a crucial part of COVID-19 specimen collection kits.

Leading the team is professor Helen Wing.

"So inside that vial, as the swab gets taken from the patient there’s a specimen. That specimen needs to be preserved and sent to the lab for testing. It’s important to put that into proper solution and it’s that solution that we’re making."

The scientists have produced thousands of vials and hope to produce more in the coming weeks. Wing says, "Ordinarily this media is commercially available and the health district can just purchase it but right now there is a national shortage. So that’s why they’re looking for people around here to make the media because it can’t be purchased ready made."

Being able to produce this viral transport medium at UNLV frees up health officials so they can devote more time to testing and pandemic response.

"I remember feeling a sense of relief being able to do something finally when this opportunity came up," says Wing. "I should point out that that’s something that’s echoed by volunteers who run this project. Everyone says I’m so relieved to be doing something. I so want to help. I’m so glad that my skills are being used in this project. It’s really important that we give back to our community."

UNLV scientists want to take it further and eventually create a COVID-19 test kit in Las Vegas. They’re looking for partners in the 3D printing process to be able to do that.