At Don Whitley Scientific we are always pleased to hear about how our workstations are used by our customers. We recently interviewed Steve Merrifield, BMS at Royal Cornwall Hospital, about the Clinical Microbiology Department's A95TG Anaerobic Workstation and some of the features that his team find particularly useful.
What is the history of creating anaerobic conditions in your laboratory?
In the 1980s we used jars, then the lab acquired one of the very early Whitley Workstations. In the early 90s this was replaced by the Whitley Mk III cabinet. We kept this until 2018 when we purchased an A95TG Anaerobic Workstation.
What manner of specimens are you working with and which bacteria are you expecting or hoping to isolate in your anaerobic workstation?
Our lab deals with all manner of specimens, in terms of volume the wound swabs account for the majority plates in the cabinet. We are seeing more anaerobic bacteria from blood cultures due to the BacTec analyzer and the new cabinet allowing rapid incubation of plates from positive bottles. In one week alone a Finegoldia magna, Peptostreptococcus sp. and Prevotella disiens were isolated from positive blood cultures.
Since you started using the workstation, have you noticed a change in the number of isolates or the colony sizes?
The anaerobic yield has increased on blood cultures, due to both the new cabinet and a new blood culture system; the cabinet has definitely facilitated the rapid incubation of plates. When the unit was being verified it compared well with the existing unit but at the point the incubation practices hadn’t changed, (i.e plates getting incubated in two large batches as opposed to little and often).
Are you finding the size of the airlock and the capacity of the chamber convenient for your daily workload? What do you think of the speed of the airlock?
The general capacity is fine, our workload is ever increasing and now we are looking to adopt the Standards for Microbiology Investigations (SMI) for soft tissue infections (5 day incubation on all swabs as opposed to 2). The speed is a marked improvement on the old cabinet, taking less than half the time to flush the airlock.
How many plates are in the workstation at any given time? What is your average workload?
Pre-COVID-19, the cabinet would never have more than 400 plates at any one time. Currently the routine work has dropped somewhat, adopting the aforementioned SMI will have a huge impact on the use of the cabinet and we could get towards 800.
What are your thoughts on the oval porthole system on the A95? Do you utilize the feature of transferring the plates through the glove ports?
The porthole entry system is mostly utilized by the blood culture bench to quickly incubate plates from the morning positive bottles. On the old system it may have been midday before they got incubated.
Why did you decide to purchase another TG (three-gas) workstation?
During the procurement process I did some costings on the running of a triple gas verses a mixed gas system. The triple gas was cheaper and the added benefit was that we already had the pipe work and gas storage facilities in situ.
If you have either or both Anaerobic and Catalyst Monitoring Systems fitted, has this improved the confidence you have in the performance of the chamber? Are people more conscientious about how they use the workstation?
It is a very useful tool. There was an occasion where the letterbox was not properly closed; if the anaerobic conditions monitor not been fitted it may have been some time before this was noticed.
Did you require a lot of training on use of the workstation?
We have only had a couple of sessions; generally it is very easy to use.
Are there any features of the workstation that you find particularly useful in your work?
The letterbox feature is very useful for the out of hour’s urgent work, so the BMS can quickly incubate a single plate with minimal fuss. Our quality manager is thrilled with the data logger. We can look at any given day and find out what the temperature was, the oxygen level and so on. This is great for UKAS.
Are you happy with the touch screen display and do you find it easy to work with?
We have all found the display easy to understand and intuitive to use.
How satisfied are you with the technical support we provide? Do you have a service contract for annual maintenance?
We have a service contract and our engineer, Martyn, is great. Nothing is ever too much trouble and he's always cheerful despite being sat in a car for hours before seeing us.
Why did your lab decide to buy a Whitley Workstation?
I was very impressed with the reliability of our old unit which lasted for 22 years; Don Whitley Scientific is a name that has always been synonymous with anaerobic cabinets for me. During the procurement process I attained some feedback from other labs that use DWS cabinets and/or competitor cabinets. The feedback was always good for the Whitley Workstations and never more than lukewarm for the other cabinets. Another big factor was the fact that service and maintenance is done in-house and not by a third party, so I felt assured that the service personnel would have excellent product knowledge.