The final internship of my program involved working with the Quality Control Manager to conduct microbial testing of MUIH manufactured botanicals. The purpose of this internship was to create a repeatable and cost-effective method for aseptic botanical testing outside of a formal laboratory. This method would provide a low-cost testing option that would allow small scale herbal businesses and manufacturers to meet part of the requirements for GMP compliance without significant financial hardship.
The internship work involved several different components. First, was reviewing and updating the documentation from previous internships to ensure completeness and applicability. This process began at home where I modified material to make it relevant to the tinctures being tested. During the time at the Dispensary doing the actual testing, the SOPs and documents had to be examined and re-examined, with feedback and lessons learned incorporated into the final product.
The next component of the internship was the specimen inoculation in the MUIH Dispensary. The inoculation required following the steps outlined in the revised SOP with careful attention to detail to ensure an aseptic environment. Carrying out the botanical testing according to the procedures required a degree of skill, training, and competency that I was able to leverage from previous trimesters’ work in botanical testing. I found myself prepared for the procedures involved, particularly with the measuring of ingredients and using the pipettes according to aseptic techniques.
The inoculation itself required measuring out exact dilutions of the tinctures, keeping all the materials well organized, and ensuring exact and accurate application of the inoculation solution. The materials were then taken home and observed over several days before they were analyzed for microbial growth.
The final part of the internship involved working with other interns to determine the costs of all materials and man hours in order to carry out the botanical testing. These estimates needed to be clear and accurate to provide a picture of long-term requirements.
At last, we have reached the end of this series on the “internship” that is no longer an internship. If you didn’t read the series, you should start at Part I. The point of this blog series is to illustrate some of the work that I have done and things that I have learned. Since this is a real, ongoing, study involving accredited universities (University of Maryland and Maryland University of Integrative Health), I am not disclosing all materials and methods, analysis, or results.
This last portion of the experiment I have been participated in involved testing botanical extracts against various bacteria, yeast, and mold. Specifically, I got to test hydro-alcoholic extracts of Echinacea purpurea (commonly known as Purple Coneflower or Echinacea), of varying strengths to see if it inhibited growth of the bacterias, yeast, and mold. To do this, I created dilutions using 3 different Echinacea tinctures to inoculate, incubate, and interpret results from 3M Petrifilms.
I learned aseptic lab techniques while carrying out the study discussed in Part II of this series. This time around, it was even more important because I was handling petrifilm loaded with yeast and mold spores, and one with E.Coli (yuck!). Having the experience gained from the first round made it much easier to confidently carry out the steps while limiting exposure. Some of the additional daily tasks involved taking ambient temperatures, monitoring samples, counting colonies, and reporting results.
I won’t go into all the nerdy details since more will be written (and it’s really the school’s place to properly publish the study and get credit for it). For now here are some pics of what I’ve been learning and doing.
The Spring 2018 trimester marked my first of three required internships. I wanted at least one of them to be focused on scientific testing and lab work since I have a keen interest in the science behind the plants I study and work with. To meet this goal, I did my first internship with MUIH faculty, on the Microbial Analysis Experiment.
The Microbial Analysis Experiment is a joint experiment between the University of Maryland’s Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) and the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) Dispensary. The research objective of the overarching study is to compare the results of microbial testing conducted in a laboratory setting versus multiple non-laboratory settings that use a bunsen burner to create a sterile field. The study is broken into 3 phases, with my internship occurring during phase 1: the Research Phase.
My assignment was to conduct research remotely to: determine the regulatory requirements for microbial testing, develop the steps for selecting and preparing a laboratory environment in a remote location, and develop a list of materials that would be required to conduct microbial testing in an aseptic home/remote lab. All work was due by April. This research will provide small business owners (me!) with the education necessary to properly test botanical matter. The sanitization techniques are also applicable for product development and manufacturing.
I have included the first deliverable as an example of my work. It is a list of the resources that I found to answer the questions posed. Each of these sources was part of my literature review and provided information as to industry standards for testing, or how to properly prepare a lab environment. Other documents are still being collaboratively worked on. This internship is still ongoing at the time of this posting.
HRB 690 Lit Review Resources
Part II of this post discusses the actual experiment that was conducted during Summer 2018.