Technology in the field of biological science has reached new advancements in the last few years. Microbiology, especially media preparation for culturing microbes, is one of the most challenging fields for automation. Media preparation is lengthy, time-consuming, and also tedious. Automated culture media preparation and dispenser system must include preparation, sterilizing, and dispensing of the prepared media in Petri plates or test tubes.
MASTERCLAVE and APS One by Biomerieux offer automated culture media preparation and dispensation systems. At the same time, MEDIACLAVE and MEDIAJET by Integra also offer both automated culture media preparation and dispenser systems.
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Steps Automated in Culture Media Preparation and Dispenser System
Culture/Biochemical media is essential for isolating and identifying bacteria and yeasts in the microbiology laboratory. Their preparation includes the following steps:
- Weigh the powder form of the desired media
- Measure the desired amount of distilled water
- Dissolve the powder completely in distilled water by heating
- Sterilize the mixture in the autoclave
- Add supplement (if any) like blood in Blood Agar, urea in Urea broth
- Pour the mixture into Petri plates or test tubes after cooling down
- Finally, label the Petri plates/test tubes with the name of the media
While preparing media manually, these steps require the undivided attention of the laboratory personnel. Similarly, these steps may look small but require much more time than expected. Opting for automation in most stages will help the laboratory personnel focus their time and energy on other parts of the diagnosis.
The technology available in automation in culture media preparation and dispensation provides the following automated stage:
Dissolving the powder
Even though weighing the powder and measuring water is not automated. The manual work of dissolving the powder in water by heating it to the boiling point is tedious and time-consuming. The machines have a powerful magnetic stirrer that completely dissolves the powder. It cuts off the manual labor in half.
Sterilization of the mixture
Autoclaving is one of the ways of sterilizing the dissolved mixture of media, and it also takes up a lot of time. It generates a longer waiting time and requires personnel to check the temperature and pressure in the machine constantly. Automated culture media preparation has a setting for performing sterilization in the same equipment without the personnel transferring it after heating to the autoclave.
Some media like blood agar or urea broth needs adding blood and urea after the temperature reaches an appropriate range. In manual conditions, adding these kinds of supplements requires the person to open the sterilized media, risking contamination. Automated culture media preparation has a system of adding supplements without opening the container’s seal. It has the provision for adding the supplement with the help of a small opening in the container for large volumes or by syringe for small volumes.
Dispensing in the Plate
While pouring manually, the volume in each plate may not be the same, and the risk of burning the laboratory personnel’s hand is very high. Automating the pouring/dispensing of media helps obtain an equal volume of media in all the plates. It also helps reduce risk. The MEDIAJET by Integra provides dispensation of media in almost 900 plates in an hour. The automation process is also easy and gives the personnel a walk-away facility.
Also, switching between different sizes of the Petri plates is simple. Likewise, filling the test tubes is also accessible in this automation.
Labeling the Plate
Labeling the plate by a laboratory worker includes adding the name of the media only. Automation helps generate barcodes with the date and time of preparation. Also, it can imprint the date and the name of the media in the Petri plate or any other container. This facility helps in inventory management of the laboratory.
Benefits of Automated Culture Media Preparation and Dispenser System
Implementing automation in preparing and dispensing culture media has many benefits. Some of them are as follows:
Isolating microorganisms becomes hassle-free
Culture media is the key to isolating microorganisms. Laboratory personnel have to spend a long time preparing the media. The manual work of pouring/dispensing the media is equally tiresome. It creates a hassle for simply isolating microorganisms in the microbiology laboratory.
Laboratory requires fewer manual workers
Since automation requires only a worker who operates the machine, the number of manual workers in the laboratory decreases. Plus, the device has a walk-away feature which means the operator can finish another task in the laboratory. As a single person can complete many more tasks, it decreases the required number of manual workers.
The traditional way of preparing media requires direct contact with human/personnel in every step. This contact increases the chance of contaminated media to a maximum. Automation leads to less human contact with the media, decreasing the chance of contamination. Similarly, after sterilizing the prepared media, adding supplements requires opening the closed container completely. But an automated machine has a provision for adding the supplements through a sterile syringe or opening a small opening in the container, which can be flamed before use.
Well-informed and managed stocks
The method of imprinting the tag/label of the name of the media, date of preparation, and expiry date help keep the laboratory stocks informed and managed. It makes laboratory inventory management tasks very easy.
Attention to the work that needs manual labor
Observing bacteria under the microscope , staining, verifying results, etc., requires attention by the laboratory personnel. Automation in the media preparation and dispensation gives the personnel time to shift their focus to these works, reducing the attention time required for preparing and pouring the media.
Increase in the rate of preparation
Automated media preparation has the capacity of up to 10-30 L. This capacity helps in preparing a large number of media at a time which means the problem of running out of media quickly and diverting the attention in preparing media time and again decreases. Also, the automated dispensation allows the filling of more than 500 plates in an hour, which increases the preparation rate of media.
Decrease in the chances of laboratory errors
Laboratory errors during media preparation are pouring an unequal volume of media on the plate, burning of hands/body parts of the personnel while handling hot media, misplacing the name/tag of the media, and breaking of glassware used to prepare media. Automation in the preparation system decreases these human errors or mishaps. Since the automated system carries out media preparation in the container, not glassware, it reduces the chance of breaking any glass equipment.
Similarly, this system uses imprinted tags; losing the tag/name decreases the chance of misplacing the tags. Likewise, personnel do not directly heat or pour the media using an automated system; it reduces the mishap of burning the personnel’s hands or other body parts. So, standard errors and accidents in the laboratory decrease to some extent.
Reasons to Switch to Automated Culture Media Preparation and Dispenser System
As discussed above, automation benefits culture media preparation and dispensation. So, it should give you an idea of why automation is better for your laboratory. But the reasons that are listed below will help you if the switch is worth it or not.
- You are looking for a cheaper way to upgrade your laboratory. The machines/technology you buy for automation is affordable and will last for an extended period.
- Similarly, the samples in your laboratory are increasing, and you are running out of prepared media very fast. Automating media preparation and dispensation helps you obtain the media more quickly.
- During your laboratory upgrade, finding competent human resources is very hard. Automation helps solve the problem of hiring new human resources; training the old human resources about the machine will allow the laboratory to upgrade easily.
- APS ONE: Fully Automated Pourer Stacker. bioMérieux Clinical Diagnostics. Retrieved 20 June 2022, from https://www.biomerieux-diagnostics.com/aps-one-media-dispenser.
- Automated Laboratory Media Preparation. Rapidmicrobiology.com. Retrieved 20 June 2022, from https://www.rapidmicrobiology.com/test-method/automating-media-preparation-in-the-laboratory.
- MASTERCLAVE®. bioMérieux Clinical Diagnostics. Retrieved 20 June 2022, from https://www.biomerieux-diagnostics.com/masterclave.