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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2011 May;17(5):655-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2011.03513.x.

Automation in clinical bacteriology: what system to choose?

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Laboratory of Clinical Bacteriology, Institute of Microbiology, University of Lausanne and University Hospital Centre, Lausanne, Switzerland.


With increased activity and reduced financial and human resources, there is a need for automation in clinical bacteriology. Initial processing of clinical samples includes repetitive and fastidious steps. These tasks are suitable for automation, and several instruments are now available on the market, including the WASP (Copan), Previ-Isola (BioMerieux), Innova (Becton-Dickinson) and Inoqula (KIESTRA) systems. These new instruments allow efficient and accurate inoculation of samples, including four main steps: (i) selecting the appropriate Petri dish; (ii) inoculating the sample; (iii) spreading the inoculum on agar plates to obtain, upon incubation, well-separated bacterial colonies; and (iv) accurate labelling and sorting of each inoculated media. The challenge for clinical bacteriologists is to determine what is the ideal automated system for their own laboratory. Indeed, different solutions will be preferred, according to the number and variety of samples, and to the types of sample that will be processed with the automated system. The final choice is troublesome, because audits proposed by industrials risk being biased towards the solution proposed by their company, and because these automated systems may not be easily tested on site prior to the final decision, owing to the complexity of computer connections between the laboratory information system and the instrument. This article thus summarizes the main parameters that need to be taken into account for choosing the optimal system, and provides some clues to help clinical bacteriologists to make their choice.

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