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26th May 2022  Content supplied by: Hygiena

The Value of Automating Sample Preparation for PCR

How can a microbiology testing lab increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and get more done in a day without adding additional personnel? The solution is streamlining the workflow to be as efficient as possible while maintaining full sample and results traceability. Historically, this has meant manually labeling samples and culture plates, followed by coding results in spreadsheet format for future reference. It also meant spending significant amounts of labor hours on these activities. With advances in technology, these traditional, labor-intensive operations can be transitioned to more automated, streamlined workflows.

There are multiple hurdles to overcome when automating laboratory testing, especially when testing for microbial contamination in food. With a wide variety of matrices, sample sizes, and organisms, each food type can have its own unique methodology for sample preparation and testing. Another issue is the uneven distribution of the target organism, requiring large sample sizes or homogenization of multiple samples to achieve the testing precision needed to ensure food is safe to eat. In addition, the lab must select a robust laboratory information management system (LIMS). The LIMS must be capable of ensuring efficient processing of all samples through all steps and storing the results; it also must record information for each process step, enabling traceability and chain of custody.

The lab must also consider the tests they run most often when automating processes. High-volume tests or repetitive tests should take precedent over occasional tests. This ensures automation of the activities that have the greatest impact on workflow efficiencies. In addition, the lab must determine what steps are simplest to automate. For example, sample pipetting can easily be automated if processing large numbers in a similar format. In fact, liquid handling is the most common type of process that is automated. When considering automation options, look for those manual processes that can be replaced with instrumentation and software capable of improving overall lab efficiency while maximizing method performance. Also, consider the physical space in the lab – and build flow diagrams to help identify the best placement of equipment for maximum workflow outcomes.

Some automated tools for microbial testing are as simple as instruments for sample preparation and assay set-up, especially when handling large sample numbers daily. For high-throughput liquid handling, robotic systems can dispense and collect specific liquid amounts, such as for adding reagents, washing samples or transferring contents between containers. Such liquid handling platforms work with various types of containers, from tubes to multi-well plates, and are designed to prepare samples for various downstream processes, such as sequencing or PCR.

One such PCR/Automation combination is Hygiena’s BAX® System PCR assays and the BAX Prep Xpress automation instrument. The Prep Xpress is designed for high-throughput liquid handling and has programmed protocols that have been optimized for utilizing the 8-well multi-channel pipette heads. As a result, this instrument can prepare BAX System samples, filling cluster tubes with lysis solution or BHI media, transferring from a sample or BHI cluster tube into lysis solution cluster tubes, or transferring from prepared lysate cluster tubes into PCR tubes. The only additional equipment needed is a heating block for the completion of some of the BAX System sample preparation steps. In addition, the instrument’s small footprint (2 ft3) makes it the right selection for any lab.

To aid with workflow, the BAX System stores all results in a computer-based software for analysis and interpretation. Since the BAX Prep Xpress platform handles sample preparation, the risk of technician error is significantly reduced while pipetting accuracy and reliability are increased. The automation system has onboard control features and software to minimize downtime by prompting technicians for any maintenance activities.

When it comes to microbiological laboratory testing, a multitude of complex, time-consuming workflow processes are needed. By smartly evaluating labs’ needs for automation to streamline these workflows, consider automation solutions such as the BAX® System and BAX Prep Xpress, which can handle the most tedious tasks, such as sample processing. Hygiena™ can assist you in getting this workflow set up in your laboratory.

Click here to learn more about the BAX System and BAX Prep Xpress or use the Request Information button below.

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Date Published: 26th May 2022

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