Diagnostic Laboratory Equipment


Equipment Commonly Required by a Modern Diagnostic Laboratory

The days of adding Benedict’s reagent or Fehling’s solution to a urine sample and boiling it over a Bunsen to test for glucose, or mixing it with salicylsulphonic acid to check for the presence of albumin, are largely a thing of the past. In fact, relying on simple chemical reactions for diagnostic purposes has become unnecessary in a modern laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment based upon cutting-edge technology.

Since the early days of the hospital path lab, when most of the investigations involved measuring the intensity of the coloured products of some chemical reaction, advances such as mass spectrometry, atomic absorption spectrophotometry and immunofluorescent assays have served to gradually redefine the entire nature of this crucially important science. Only with the combined benefits of such advances and improvements in automation has it been possible to continue coping with the rapidly expanding demand now experienced by clinical and research institutions in South Africa and throughout the world.

The past few decades have seen the gradual emergence of diagnostic laboratory tests that, thanks to specialised reagents and equipment, are now both quicker and more accurate than those earlier procedures used for the same purpose. In fact, in many cases, no such earlier procedures even existed. One area of clinical medicine in which this has been the case, and that has proved to be particularly valuable, has been the development of various new tests used for the detection of specific pathologies, including certain malignancies. Applications include the differential diagnosis of pancreatitis and colorectal cancer.

Measurements of amylase levels in blood serums were traditionally used as an indicator of pancreatic insufficiency. The methods used relied on measuring either the amyloclastic (starch reduction) or saccharogenic (glucose production) effects of the enzyme on a starch substrate. These procedures are time consuming and prone to error and today, the average diagnostic laboratory relies, instead, on methods and simple equipment for the relatively quick and accurate measurement of pancreatic elastase 1 (E1).

The German company, ScheBo Biotech AG has developed two test kits, each of which makes use of enzyme-linked, immunosorbent assay (ELISA) methodology for this purpose. One is designed as a stool test and may be used to confirm or exclude pancreatic insufficiency resulting from a variety of causes, including chronic pancreatitis, gallstones, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic tumour or diabetes. The second kit is used to measure E1 in serums, where it provides a more reliable means of confirming or excluding chronic or acute pancreatitis of various origins, than serum amylase levels. 
Another product from ScheBo that has been welcomed by diagnostic laboratory staff is the M2-PK™ screening test for colorectal cancers. Using only the basic equipment required for an ELISA assay, the test is able to detect the M2-PK marker in stool. The marker is known to be associated with malignancies, and can provide reliable evidence of a tumour or its precursor cells even in the absence of a positive test for occult blood – a test which, despite its tendency to give false positives, is still used as the main screening test for bowel cancer.

IEPSA is South Africa’s leading supplier of diagnostic test kits, reagents and advanced laboratory equipment. We import and distribute these advanced products from ScheBo Biotech AG, as well as many other sophisticated tools for quality control and research.


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