Diagnostics with high throughput

Article of 29 May 2020 

High-throughput COVID-19 testing

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for testing far exceeds existing capacities. Global diagnostics companies and laboratories are in a race against time to adapt test capacities to current demand. Liquid handling solutions can be very helpful here. They enable machine builders to build scalable devices with high throughput.

Tests play an important role in the global COVID-19 pandemic. Only through comprehensive diagnostics can the extent of the pandemic and its development be assessed more accurately. Two different test procedures are used.

The PCR-based test

The test, which is based on the PCR (polymerase chain reaction), can diagnose whether a person is currently actively suffering from COVID-19. For this purpose, nose and throat swabs are sent to laboratories. There, the technicians check whether the sample contains the novel coronavirus by isolating the viral RNA, converting it into DNA and then using the PCR test to increase the DNA to detectable levels.

This test procedure is particularly crucial at the beginning of the pandemic. It can be used to determine who has the virus and must be isolated to prevent further infection. For this reason, PCR-based tests are one of the most important tools for controlling the virus outbreak.

In the PCR-based test, mouth and throat swabs are taken and examined for the novel coronavirus.
In the PCR-based test, mouth and throat swabs are taken and examined for the novel coronavirus.

The antibody test

The second method is the antibody test, often also called serology test. Antibodies are small proteins that are produced by the immune system and are mostly found in human blood. Some of these antibodies attack the virus and neutralise it. About five to ten days after infection with SARS-CoV-2, the body’s immune system produces a series of antibodies. They remain in the body for months or even years after the disease and provide immunity.

With the development of the COVID-19 pandemic, antibody tests are becoming increasingly important. These tests can help to understand how the epidemic affects a population and what level of immunity has been achieved in the society. Large-scale testing helps decision makers to determine whether contact restrictions should be relaxed and a return to normality should be achieved.

Expansion of testing capacity with laboratory automation from Festo

Technical solutions help to significantly increase test capacities. Festo’s large portfolio of liquid handling solutions enables machine manufacturers of laboratory equipment and diagnostics companies to build scalable in-vitro diagnostics (IVD) devices with high throughput. With components and intelligent subsystems for the laboratory, Festo offers automation solutions for typical test workflows such as handling sample tubes, pipetting and dispensing buffer solutions or RNA.

Festo offers a large portfolio of precise and high-throughput solutions for laboratory automation:

Festo offers a large portfolio of precise and high-throughput solutions for laboratory automation.
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Festo’s laboratory automation products are field-tested and designed for the most demanding industrial applications. When developing the components, Festo focused on high throughput, precision and accuracy, whereby the coefficient of variation – the standardised variance – is better than three per cent. A high degree of standardisation and stock-keeping ensures high availability of the components. This allows test capacities to be quickly established and expanded as needed to ensure the availability and reliability of COVID-19 testing.