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St Vincent's Melbourne to trial automation in microbiology lab

St Vincent's Melbourne to trial automation in microbiology lab

New machine promises to scan and sort 200 agar plates an hour

St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne is to trail new technology to automate the analysis of microbiology lab samples.

About the size of a large photo-copier the APAS Independence machine uses image analysis to detect colony growth on agar plates, number the colony types identified and apply rules to sort each plate for further processing.

In September, St Vincent’s will become the first pathology lab in the world to trial the technology, which is the result of a joint venture between Adelaide-based LBT Innovations and Swiss company Clever Culture Systems.

The machine will help improve the clinical efficiency of microbiology labs and enable the faster diagnosis and reporting of infectious diseases, the company said.

“This is a high calibre team working at St Vincent’s Hospital and we are extremely happy to be working with them in what will be a global first. We have instruments currently undergoing advanced reliability and performance testing that will be finalised over the coming months ahead of the first. We look forward to seeing the independent results of APAS Independence used in a clinical laboratory setting for the first time as part of our global commercialisation milestones,” said LBT CEO Brent Barnes.

The intelligent imaging and interpretative software behind the device was developed in Australia and was cleared for sale by the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods in March.

Culture of innovation

In microbiology labs, agar plates remain a commonly used diagnostic tool. However, analysis of the plates is time and resource intensive – microbiologists currently have to look at each agar plate individually despite, on average, 95 per cent of them being negative.

The APAS machine can scan and interpret 200 plates per hour and, according to LBT, has demonstrated greater accuracy than microbiologists.

“The technology is at least three times more efficient than manual plate reading and meets the market need for helping with increased workloads, quality demands and decreasing budgets,” the company said in a statement.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in November last year looking at 10,000 agar plates, members of panels of microbiologists reached agreement 96.4 per cent of the time on the final interpretation of a culture while the APAS machine was able to show 97.4 per cent accuracy with the same samples.

“Our conclusion is that humans, by their nature, produce variable results while automation such as APAS is more objective and consistent,” said the company’s scientific adviser, John Glasson at the time.

“We are pleased that [the study] may have also contained important lessons for the future about how heavily we should rely on human inputs when evaluating new technologies.”

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Tags image analysisMelbounreSt Vincent'smicrobiologyartificial intelligencePathologySt Vincent's Hospital Melbourne

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