WHAT ISSUES CAN ARISE WHEN LABORATORY STAFF PROCESS BLOOD SAMPLES MANUALLY?

With whole blood processing, normally you should mix the sample well, open it, and then start distributing. What operators often do instead to save time is mix all of the samples sitting in the rack first, and then open all the tubes and start pipetting. Unfortunately, while you are pipetting, the cells start to settle so they are not equally distributed in the specimen. This could have an impact on results, depending on the assay you want to do downstream.

Another issue is contamination. You first have to mix the samples, so when you open the tubes, they can give a little splash on the outside, which can get on the operator or on another tube.

The manual process is not only labor intensive, but it’s also easy to mix up samples.

WHAT ROLE HAS LAB AUTOMATION PLAYED IN INFECTIOUS DISEASE TESTING?

Lab automation enables traceability of samples and results, thus providing an additional layer of safety to reported results.

In light of COVID-19 testing, lab automation was an absolute need because of the large volume of samples that had to be tested. I don’t think that you could process and get the results in a short amount of time and in a reliable way if you didn’t have the automation behind it.

Everybody is currently so focused on COVID-19 testing that many other infectious diseases aren’t tested for. For example, a major disruption in tuberculosis detection could result in additional 400 000 lives lost as indicated by the WHO. Thus, reduced testing would have a (negative) impact on the ‘END TB’ Strategy defined by the WHO.