The Central Poultry Laboratory in Hardenberg is the first laboratory in the Netherlands to work with the BioChek ELISA Assay Robot (BEAR). Arnaud Plantema (CEO), Bert Brink (chief laboratory technician) and Stefan Sloots (technician) believe the BEAR is a professional asset to their laboratory. The speed, accuracy and timesavings achieved with the BEAR analysis have now made it indispensable in Hardenberg.
The Central Poultry Laboratory (CLP) is one of the larger Dutch laboratories conducting research into problems and pathogens affecting poultry. Post-mortems are carried out on some 80,000 animals annually for poultry farmers and veterinary practices. Where necessary, blood and serum samples are also investigated. An investigation that until recently, the Central Laboratory performed manually with the ELISA technology. This manual testing has now given way to the BEAR (BioChek ELISA Assay Robot).
Stefan Sloots is a laboratory technician and performs almost all the ELISA tests for the Central Laboratory. “Before we had the BEAR, I was busy for at least three half-days a week performing ELISA tests. Extremely intensive and time-consuming work. That’s now history. Now I place my samples in the BEAR, start the test and then go off to do other things. The robot does all the work for me. So that saves a huge amount of time.”
“For us this was one of the reasons to start working with the BEAR,” explains Arnaud Plantema. “We can now get through a lot more work with the same number of technicians. This gives Stefan more time for dissections, bacteriology, coprological investigation and salmonella detection in the ISO lab, for which we have been accredited since last year.”
An additional advantage of the BioChek ELISA analysis robot is the accuracy with which it operates. According to Bert Brink, a robot is always more accurate than traditional manual work. “For example if you pipette manually, then you have to use the pipette consistently and properly. This can sometimes cause discrepancies. With the BEAR, the chance of human error is negligible. Where humans may have a margin of error between 8 and 10%, with the robot it is significantly lower: around 3%. This has made the results much more reliable. Just as with a manual ELISA test, by default a positive, negative and reference control is performed. If any discrepancy is detected in any of the controls, then the robot will show it.” Plantema confirms his chief technician’s opinion: “I am convinced that in this case, a computer-controlled technology performs better than the human hand. No matter how well we carry out a manual ELISA test, this robot makes our work more professional. And that certainly also has benefits for our clients. Thus for example, they receive the results of the investigation more quickly.”
Brink explains that in addition to saving time, the Antibiotics Reduction Plan for poultry farmers has played an important role in the decision to start working with the BEAR. “Between 1999 and 2007, antibiotic use for poultry in the Netherlands rose by 83%. The government was concerned by the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, viewing it as a threat to public health. Taking action was a necessity. Antibiotic use in poultry had to be compelled downwards. One of the key words for achieving a reduction in antibiotics is prevention. Research plays a key role here. This means laboratories become increasingly important and are involved more often. And this is where we fulfil an appropriate role with the BEAR.
“With ‘problem pairs’, at the end of the round we carry out a complete blood test to show any possible viral problems. Should there be any, then a modified vaccination programme for the next couple can prevent any problems, and no antibiotics will thus be needed.”
Plantema underlines the importance of preventive healthcare for poultry. “It is in fact because of this that the Netherlands has achieved a drastic reduction in antibiotics use.”
The Central Laboratory has now had more than 10,000 samples tested by the BEAR. Not only is Sloots satisfied with his ‘new colleague,’ but also with BioChek’s service and support. “We initially had the BEAR for a two-month trial period. During the installation, BioChek took all the time needed to provide instruction and explanation. An excellent service! And if we do have questions, then we can always approach BioChek. Even if we observe something strange in an outcome, we can instantly rely on them. They can log into our BEAR’s computer directly and join us in viewing the results. That works really well. And to be completely honest: I’m happy I no longer have to perform all those ELISA analyses manually. I really wouldn’t want to be without it again.”
Just like his technicians, CEO Plantema is enthusiastic about the investment he made. “If you have to carry out a lot of ELISA tests as a veterinary practice or a laboratory, then the robot has enormous added value. We experience that daily here. So my sincere advice is: make that investment. It will pay for itself on a number of fronts!”