In Strasbourg, students mobilized to provide the hospital with an alcohol-based solution

Pharmacy students prepare hydro-alcoholic solution on March 24, 2020 in Strasbourg (hooly News / FREDERICK FLORIN)

Five hundred liters a day: pharmacy students in Strasbourg, they mobilized to supply the city's public hospitals with the quantity of hydro-alcoholic solution necessary for their daily battle against the coronavirus.

Equipped from head to toe (jumpsuit, charlotte, mask, glasses and gloves), a student concentrates to fill a graduated cylinder with precision, while another shakes the mixture in a large stainless steel tank.

Faced with the growing needs of hospital staff in hydro-alcoholic solution, essential to the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, the Regional Health Agency (ARS) granted an exceptional temporary authorization to the factory-school on March 17. "Ease" (European Aseptic and Sterile Environment), attached to the university, to manufacture this solution in its clean rooms.

Pharmacy students prepare hydro-alcoholic solution on March 24, 2020 in Strasbourg (hooly News / FREDERICK FLORIN)

"For now, we cover the daily needs of the public hospital", that is to say the University Hospitals of Strasbourg (HUS), on the front line in the care of seriously ill patients with coronavirus, and the Strasbourg Cancer Institute, explains Constance Perrot, director of Ease.

In this brand new building inaugurated at the end of 2018 next to the faculty of pharmacy, in Illkirch-Graffenstaden, 2,000 m² of clean rooms are usually used to train students in the production of drugs and other products in a sterile and sterile environment.

A "great tool" in the current circumstances to concoct the hydroalcoholic solution in large quantities and under strict conditions, notes Professor Jean-Pierre Gies, dean of the faculty of pharmacy.

"In a critical situation as we are currently experiencing it, we found it completely normal and consistent for our students in a health sector to mobilize to put themselves at the service of the population," he adds.

After a test on Friday, production started on Monday and around thirty students, mainly in the fifth year of pharmacy, will take turns morning and afternoon, on working days.

The number of volunteers was greater than necessary. "The students reacted very well, they feel invested in a mission", considers the dean.

– Decontamination –

Pharmacy students prepare hydro-alcoholic solution on March 24, 2020 in Strasbourg (hooly News / FREDERICK FLORIN)

In the clean room, an alcohol meter is immersed in the tank, before the machine is installed which will allow to fill the cans or bottles.

All under the watchful eye of Anne Dory, pharmacotechnology manager at the pharmacy of the University Hospitals of Strasbourg (HUS).

"For the pharmacy of HUS, it really has to be done in a perfect way," says Constance Perrot.

Thus, nothing enters the room without having been decontaminated, including for the cans of raw materials stored nearby: ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, glycerol and water.

In small metal cupboards, the first bottles filled with hydro-alcoholic solution, precisely labeled in batches, wait for the 72 hours necessary to ensure that no bacteria are present. Then they will be sent to hospital services.

If the priority remains the supply of the hospital, "the idea is to be able to increase further in quantity," says the director of the factory-school whose production could double if necessary.

Some cans will also be distributed to traders, via the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI).

"The local economic fabric was damn mobilized" so that all the necessary equipment was gathered in a few days, points Jean-Pierre Gies.

Restaurateurs have lent stainless steel tanks, usually used in their kitchens, distilleries have provided alcohol, the CCI has been looking for bottles … In parallel, university research laboratories have provided raw materials and equipment such as test tubes or beakers.

Outside the clean rooms, Jean-Pierre Gies, as well as the administrative head of the faculty of pharmacy Irène Monzon, both gloved and masked, help load cans into boxes and clean the bottles. "We contribute as much as we can," explains the smiling "very proud" dean of his students, who remain out of reach behind the laboratory glass.

shift / ha / spinnaker