Sample Collection Technology - the Safer Way to Sample
Tech Snapshot® captures today’s cutting-edge tools and technologies that will help drive drug discovery tomorrow. This installment was written by Zymo Research, a globally established biotechnology company and industry leader in the fields of epigenetics, microbiomics and the emerging Next-Gen Sequencing space.
Sample Collection Trends
Although biological sample collection has become more optimized over the last several years, the collection process may still pose certain safety risks, particularly regarding the transport medium that samples are placed into after collection. Liquid transport mediums or reagents are a vital part of sample preservation since they keep the sample safe while waiting for processing.
Unfortunately, not all transport mediums inactivate pathogens and bacteria, posing a risk to anyone who handles the sample. Many sample types may also require costly cold-chain transport, meaning that the samples must be immediately stored and shipped on ice to maintain the integrity of the sample and prevent degradation. The combination of handling risk and the hassle of sample storage and shipping can be a major roadblock in a lot of studies, especially those conducted in unique settings (e.g., in the desert away from ice, dealing with dangerous diseases, etc.).
Zymo Research SafeCollect™ is an innovative new design with increased safety measures through use of a safety seal that is pierced only upon closure, after sample collection. The swab is then broken to fit within the collection tube, and the tube is capped. A variety of 80mm breakpoint swabs, including flocked swabs are compatible to accommodate a variety of applications and sample types. This design minimizes user error by virtually eliminating the possibility of accidental contact with the reagent itself. Because of this additional safety seal, SafeCollect™ is an ideal choice for any direct-to-consumer testing and at-home sample collection.
SafeCollect™ devices are pre-filled with Zymo Research’s proprietary DNA/RNA Shield™ stabilization solution that preserves DNA and RNA at ambient temperature for at least 30 days. Such preservation is not only economical but also vital when shipping samples where expensive dry ice and other cold shipping methods are not available or permitted. DNA/RNA Shield™ was the first 510(k) cleared transport medium for collection, preservation and inactivation for SARS-CoV-2, which provides an additional layer of protection for those who come into direct contact with samples, including couriers and laboratory personnel.
SafeCollect™ comes in both a Swab and Saliva format as shown in Fig 1. With the SafeCollect™ Swab Collection Kit, the sample is brought into contact with DNA/RNA Shield by puncturing the safety seal with a swab after sample collection. The SafeCollect Saliva Collection Kit allows users to deposit saliva into the tube with a user-friendly funnel. Once enough saliva is collected, the funnel is removed and replaced with a tube cap featuring a Safe Puncture Cap Tip™. Capping the tube punctures the safety seal, allowing DNA/RNA Shield to mix with the saliva sample once the cap is screwed onto the tube.
Pathogen Inactivation and Ambient Storage
DNA/RNA Shield is a transport reagent that inactivates bacteria and pathogens immediately upon collection and eliminates the need for cold-chain storage and transport and thus, the high associated costs. With the ability to render pathogens non-infectious, the receiving lab that processes the sample is only required to be a Bio Safety Level (BSL) 2, and not a BSL-3. BSL-2 labs are more widely available than BSL-3, and less costly, as they do not require enhanced safety measures designed to handle highly infectious samples.
Samples collected into DNA/RNA Shield are safe to handle and ship at room temperature. Shield also protects samples from freeze/thaw damage, extreme temperature fluctuations and nucleic acid degradation – keeping DNA stable for up to 2 years and RNA for up to 30 days at ambient temperature.
User safety is perhaps the most critical aspect of a sample collection device, as it limits liability while ensuring sample integrity for accurate results.
With the intention of the collection device being at-home or unsupervised collection, this presents more opportunities for accidental ingestion and thus the need for safety precautions. Some collection devices are designed with the preservation solution in the cap or as part of the saliva funnel. While this is convenient for users it still poses the safety risk of exposure to the solution as the funnel needs to be taken off and replaced with the cap after the solution is added. Additionally, devices with preservation solution chambers outside of the tube can easily expose users if the film on the chamber is accidentally removed.
SafeCollect™ was designed around user safety and ease of use, which minimizes collection errors and prevents access to the preservation solution by containing it inside the tube with a safety seal. By sealing the solution inside the tube and only allowing the seal to be punctured after collection, the risk of accidental exposure can be mitigated.
Zymo Research is the preferred supplier of sample collection devices for many direct-to-consumer testing companies. With virtually unlimited production capacity and as the sole manufacturer of all components in SafeCollect™ Collection Kits, Zymo Research can scale production to match any business’s growth and sustain supply through the rapidly evolving era of modern biological testing.
Visit us at Zymo Research for more information.