In my years working with microbiology lab managers, I've learned that not all labs are the same, and not all rapid detection needs are the same. Once a QC lab or plant has decided that rapid detection makes sense, the next, arguably more difficult, task is to sift through the wide variety of rapid technologies to select the one that matches their needs.
This can be a daunting process as there are a variety of approaches. In my experience, using these 5 criteria can be a guide to sort through the options.
- Speed to result - How quickly will the solution provide the results?
- Cost - This is where an ROI analysis can help (a topic we will discuss on this blog at a later time)
- Applicability - Does the solution handle all the sample types required?
- Ease to validate - What hurdles must be overcome to properly validate the solution?
- Fit to current lab process - Is the solution a step forward, or will it create more work over the long term?
Weighing the importance of each criterion depends on the lab and overall corporate objectives. For businesses focused heavily on Lean processes, number 5 will be extremely important. Companies focused on cycle times will put more weight on number 1. In many instances, the applications act as the main driver.
When considering solutions for filterable products that require enumeration, several options exist. If immediate results are the priority, a non-growth system may be the best solution. Considering the 5 factors above, watch for extra steps that may be required and limited applications.
If rapid results are acceptable, the options can include growth-based systems. Growth-based technologies provide results faster than traditional methods, but have different approaches. Some systems require that the cells be exploded open (destroyed), which makes it impossible to perform an ID on the sample if an action level is exceeded. Some systems may require additional steps outside of normal processes (like rekeying data into LIMS) that can impact the labor needed for testing.
More and more companies are looking for technology options that are not only rapid and nondestructive, but automate the current process. These options offer rapid detection and significant sample throughput. Preparation methods are identical to current methods, so no extra lab resources are required. The contaminating micro organisms are available for ID with no further processing. Validation is also straightforward as the technology is based on the traditional micro methods. These technologies can become the means to reduce analyst workload and improve efficiency and standardization due to automated detection and LIMS communication capabilities.
If you are interested in reading more information on these types of rapid options, I recommend, "An automated system for rapid non-destructive enumeration of growing microbes".
Rapid detection methods are the way of the future. The value to organizations is real and substantial. Prioritizing the needs of the organization using the above criteria simplifies the decision process.
Director of Technical Services
Rapid Micro Biosystems