The Role of the Laboratory Equipment Supplier Has Changed Dramatically

During the ‘60s, the role of a laboratory equipment supplier was very different from that of the companies operating today. At that time, the demand from chemistry labs, for instance, was for less sophisticated items such as litmus paper, test tubes, Bunsen burners retort stands, and assorted chemicals from which to prepare their own reagents. In parallel, the microbiologists would be placing orders for pre-prepared culture media, Petri dishes, incubators, and water baths.

At around the same time, new rapid diagnostic tests designed to replace the more time-consuming bench methods with procedures that, in many cases, could be performed at the bedside, were beginning to emerge. Together with elementary automation, this sparked a technical revolution that has continued to expand the role of the laboratory equipment supplier to this day. The use of Benedict’s reagent, for instance, was replaced by Clinistix for the detection of glucose in urine. Soon after, compound strips with separate reagent-impregnated segments enabled the simultaneous detection of protein and blood, and the measurement of pH. Such tests have continued to become more sophisticated and now include complete kits for the detection, in various body fluids, of the specific chemical markers associated with certain tumours.

Automated methods have continued to develop and so the laboratory equipment supplier is no longer restricted to assisting the technical staff of clinical biochemistry labs with the simultaneous measurement of multiple components in a continuous flow of samples. Today, automated methods are to be found in all the disciplines of diagnostic pathology and medical research. For the haematologists, there are machines to perform total red and white cell counts, and some even have the ability to differentiate between erythrocytes, platelets, lymphocytes, and the various types of granulocytic polymorphs present in whole blood.

While the histopathology department was perhaps the first to acquire systems from a laboratory equipment supplier to automate a routine task, in this case, the processing of fixed tissue prior to embedding, staining, and microscopic examination, the microbiologists have lagged behind in this area with most of the tasks still performed manually until relatively recently. While technology to detect and flag growth in blood culture bottles has been available for around 20 years, only quite recently have systems to automate the inoculation of primary culture plates, the detection of subsequent bacterial growth, and the identification of specific microorganisms and their sensitivity to antibiotics become practical.

As is the case with any new product, a reputable laboratory equipment supplier will attempt to evaluate its performance and dependability before recommending its use and, even then, there will be sceptics who prefer to rely on the tried-and-tested technology they are already familiar with. In time, of course, the steadily increasing demand by diagnostic and research facilities will leave the traditionalists with no option but to automate, and it is likely that even more of their routine task will cease to depend on the use of manual techniques.

A leading supplier of world-class laboratory equipment and diagnostic test kits to hospitals, universities, and research labs in South Africa for close to four decades, IEPSA is acknowledged across the nation for our insistence on quality products backed by service excellence and extensive technical knowledge of each of the products in our equally extensive portfolio.

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