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Image of COVID-19 and water drops for article on covid testing and liquid handling.
Published On: May 4th, 2021

Processes That Integrate Pipetting Robots

On January 9, 2020, the World Health Organization announced 59 patients in Wuhan, China, with unknown pneumonia that appeared to be related to a novel form of the coronavirus. In less than 15 months, the world went from 59 cases to over 132,000,000 cases and more than 2,870,000 deaths from this novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19 (for coronavirus disease of 2019).

Diagnosing an individual currently infected with SARS-CoV-2 requires the use of PCR testing. Read on to learn more about this laboratory testing technique.

How Testing is Done for COVID-19

One of the most popular tests for COVID-19 requires nucleic acid amplification. By amplifying specific regions of the viral RNA such as the viral envelope, nucleocapsid, and the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be positively identified. The easiest and cleanest method of amplifying the RNA so that there are sufficient quantities for adequate identification uses the well-developed polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Using PCR, one only needs to replicate and identify a portion of the virus, such as the nucleocapsid proteins that make up the viral particle’s outer wall. If using older PCR methods, costs are higher, and lab technicians must be properly trained to prevent inaccurate results. However, the ever-growing use of PCR automation obviates the need for large groups of technicians and eliminates the significant risk of human error on results.

Modem COVID-19 Testing Using PCR Automation

Each of the various techniques for COVID-19 testing uses a slightly different technique. Yet every method requires the use of multiple liquids. Without an adequate liquid handling system for performing PCR tasks, the overall cost, turnaround time, and technical experience required make COVID-19 testing impractical.

With the advent and distribution of liquid handling robots, accurate test results can be safely and consistently achieved at minimal cost with multiple samples in as little as 15 – 30 minutes.

An automated liquid handling system’s value to perform PCR automation of COVID-19 testing simply cannot be overstated.

The Benefits of PCR Automation with Liquid Handling Robots

The benefits of automating your laboratory are tremendous. They include more productive laboratory staff who feel less stressed and have fewer physical ailments related to performing repetitive tasks, often inside a biological safety cabinet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that one-third of work-related injuries are musculoskeletal. Taking people away from repetitive tasks and replacing them with robots is an excellent way to protect your staff’s health.

This allows more time for your staff to engage in collaboration, result in interpretation, publication writing and revising, and novel experimental design. Overall energy use (and cost) has been proven to be less in more automated laboratories where procedures are done quicker, with greater precision and accuracy, and error-free.

And of course, isolating lab staff from infectious samples is the prime benefit of lab automation – the more the robots can do, the less risk of exposure for humans.

Selecting a Liquid Handling Robot for PCR Automation

Studies have confirmed that in a pandemic with well over 100,000,000 infected individuals, only low-cost, reliable, and rapid testing of large populations can help to control the spread of infection.

It is also clear that only PCR automation using liquid handling robots has any chance of performing reliable testing in large numbers.

Space considerations have often been a concern preventing laboratory staff from seriously considering moving to automation. However, research has shown that if properly configured with modern equipment (i.e., smaller footprint), available space can actually be increased in the lab. Choosing the right equipment for your needs and space is critical to a successful transition to automation.

While in the short term, the cost of equipment and supplies may be higher, in the long-term, the benefits of PCR automation include:

  • Lower costs compared with manual labs;
  • Reduced staff workforce required;
  • Improved overall laboratory efficiency;
  • Increased accuracy and precision of experiments;
  • Improved testing quality;
  • Smaller sample volumes needed;
  • Less risk of injury or exposure to staff; and
  • Many more.

Contact us today to request a consultation or learn more about our host of products to assist you with PCR Automation for COVID-19 testing or any other use and discover how we can help you with a host of automation options to meet all of your laboratory needs.