By Nancy I. Maanao
(Tumon, Guam) Linda DeNorcey was informed by a local laboratory since April 23, 2020 that the machines being used by the Department of Public Health and Social Services Guam Public Health Laboratory to test for Coronavirus were being used the wrong way.
At 9:13 a.m. on April 23, Cynthia Henson from Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc emailed Ms. DeNorcey:
"Hi Linda, We started doing the COVID test today and we will run the specimens we received. This is PCR. The Abbott machine received at Public Health and GMH are not accurate according to the latest studies (click below). This is why our Technical Director in Hawaii did not want to use these."
Ms. Henson provided a link to an NPR article regarding the misuse of the Abbott ID NOW machines being used by GPHL to test for Coronavirus. The article was among several published globally following an April 16, 2020 urgent instruction from Abbott Laboratories, the manufacturer of the machine, for its customers to stop diluting test specimens in viral transport medium (VTM) prior to testing the specimens directly into the machine.
Kandit provided this same NPR article, as well as articles from Bloomberg, the New York Times, Abbott, and a notice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the Joint Information Center and the Governor's Office a day before Ms. Henson's email to Ms. DeNorcey.
On April 22, we asked the government whether, based on the Atlanta-based study on the misuse of the machine leading to false negative results of Coronavirus infection, GovGuam would stop diluting test specimens in a VTM.
Despite the notices from Abbott and the news reports, and despite the warning from Kandit and the email from Ms. Henson, Ms. DeNorcey's agency released guidance on April 23 that GPHL was assured its method of diluting the samples in only 1mL VTM was safe to do. This was on the same day Ms. DeNorcey received the email from Ms. Henson.
GovGuam continues to dilute and store the samples prior to testing.
Procurement and use of expired VTM
The morning before Ms. Henson's warning to Ms. DeNorcey about the misuse of the Abbott machine, Ms. Henson sent an email to Ms. DeNorcey indicating DLS would be giving the GPHL 39 VTMs that had expired January 2020.