Scientists in the Immunobiology Unit at UCL ICH are using a Synbiosis ProtoCOL 3 alongside a ProtoCOL HR to count thousands of small colonies of Streptococcus pneumoniae plated on modified Todd-Hewitt agar following an opsonophagocytic-killing assay (OPA). This is helping the researchers there to rapidly determine the efficacy of new pneumococcal vaccines.

With the increase in antibiotic resistance of many bacteria, the production of innovative pneumococcal vaccines is an area of critical importance, where the ProtoCOL 3 automated colony counter can generate and analyse data more rapidly.

Lucy Cowell, Laboratory Technician in the Immunobiology Unit at UCL ICH explained: “We routinely use OPA because we are the WHO reference lab for Pneumococcal serology and provide testing for many groups. We have been successfully using the ProtoCOL HR for this work for six years but have recently reached capacity with this system, as we now have around 150 post OPA plates to count every day. Since each plate has thousands of tiny colonies on it, it is virtually impossible to count them by eye, so manual counting is not an option.”

Lucy continued: “To maintain consistency, which is important in clinical programmes, we assessed current automated colony counting technology and then decided to install the latest ProtoCOL system. We have been using the ProtoCOL 3 for several months, the system is smaller and its counting performance is faster than the ProtoCOL HR, so it was the right choice to help us increase our throughput.”

Martin Smith at Synbiosis concluded: “Accurately enumerating colonies after running an OPA is a task very few automated colony counting systems can perform well. The ProtoCOL has been recognised internationally for nearly a decade as the best colony counter for this application and we’re delighted to hear that our technology has been chosen yet again by scientists at the UCL ICH to help improve the productivity of their important trials. The continued support of one of Europe’s major child health research facilities shows that a ProtoCOL 3 is an intelligent choice for helping to speed up the development of novel pneumococcal vaccines.”

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