DHEC’s public lab unable to use thousands of contaminated materials from federal government

Thursday’s report brings the total number of cases since the outbreak began in South Carolina...
Thursday’s report brings the total number of cases since the outbreak began in South Carolina to 16,441.(WIS)
Updated: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:08 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s lab received thousands of unusable supplies for COVID-19 testing, according to a spokesperson with the South Carolina State Emergency Response Team.

During a Testing and Tracing Subcommittee meeting on Wednesday as part of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, Director of Public Health, Dr. Joan Duwve, told legislators that the public health lab has the supplies it needs to maintain its maximum capacity.

They are getting supplies from the federal government, and periodically, they receive supplies they cannot use - “for example, transport media,” Duwve said.

Transport media is a solution that is used to preserve bacteria, such as that found with a COVID-19 test, during transport and helps to maintain the specimen in its original state.

Duwve said thousands of tubes were unusable because they had been contaminated or they reacted poorly to bleach.

The State Emergency Response Team told WMBF News that they received about 25,000 vials of the liquid that was sealed in plastic bags. Lab analysts noticed the liquid was discolored.

They had also been aware that other public health labs around the country received some similar contaminated solution.

Lab analysts for DHEC plated samples of the media and found that it had a heavy growth of the organism Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, which had been recovered by other public health labs as well.

Right now it’s not clear what caused the contamination but officials believe it was some kind of production issue.

Officials said DHEC is working to get new media now to replace the contaminated material.

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