Today, we assembled the glass bottles, rubber stoppers, aluminum seals, crimper, BHI powder and the SPS at the office of the Fondation Merieux in the School of Pharmacy at the Health Sciences Center in Phnom Penh and after some introductions and a quick cup of coffee we moved to one of the beautiful labs built with funding from the Fondation Merieux to begin making blood culture media. The team consisted of Dr. Ket Vansith, Dr. Chou Mondarin, Sreng Navin, Joanne Letchford, Nhim Dararith and me, Jim McLaughlin.
Generally speaking, everything went smoothly. Of course, we discovered there was some glassware and some equipment we needed but didn’t immediately have on hand. That was not unexpected and we adapted with what we had. At one point we discussed going down to the canteen to bring the BHI broth to a boil because the heating block we had wasn’t quite hot enough. Dr. Monidarin was not in favor of taking the broth down to the canteen to heat over their stove, so we heated the broth as hot as we could get it on the heating block. I had no idea that BHI broth powder was so hydrophilic. It stuck determinedly to the paper filter I created to pour the powder into that graduated cylinder. Fortunately, Joanne brought supplies, including the Streptococcus pneumoniae and the Hemophilus influenzae needed for the quality control of the prepared broth. We really could not have started production without Joanne’s help. Joanne is a VIDA volunteer who has been working in the Kampong Cham microbiology lab for over one year.
Dr. Ket Vansith and Dr. Chou Monidarin are the two laboratory directors who expressed the willingness to develop a blood culture bottle production system for making blood culture broth for distribution to hospitals in the provinces and to the National Pediatric Hospital in Phnom Penh as well. I think that Dr. Vansith is happiest about the news that his daughter-in-law delivered his second grandchild that morning.