allow us to track samples and have instant access to the data. Back-end reporting tools are also critical for us, being able to feed into stats and having that data much sooner. Whereas, with the classic paper records there can be a gap of up to six weeks while you wait for that data to be usable and interpretable,’ stated French. ‘We take multiple samples each day for each subject, so all of that data needs to be put together each day and the graphs need to be produced. ‘For anyone working on anything to do with a covid vaccine, there is also that added pressure of getting that data out as quickly as possible, getting these vaccines ready faster than before,’ said French.

Environmental testing for the food industry Campden BRI provides a wide range of analysis and testing services, and operational support for the food and beverage industry. Since the start of the pandemic they have been working to adapt existing expertise to develop services which can help.

Campden BRI helps organisations

ensure their cleaning methods are working and can perform environmental testing to ensure that premises are free from contamination of the Sars-CoV-2 virus. The company is also now providing PCR testing for employees as part of this suite of services. Martin D’Agostino, head of virology at Campden BRI notes that ‘one of the first tasks when I started in 2016 was to set up testing for detection of food-borne viruses. Things like norovirus, hepatitis A and hepatitis E virus.’ ‘We have extensive experience in this

area, working with food-borne viruses,’ added D’Agostino. Now the company has pivoted to help organisations in the food industry detect and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

‘When the Covid-19 issue came up, we

wanted to diversify and be able to help the food industry out. While it may not be similar to other food-borne viruses, the impact on the food industry has been widespread. People are worried about the virus transferring from foods into people.’ D’Agostino notes that while normal

environmental testing would be for something more common to the food industry, such as listeria, a lot of organisations were interested in being able to monitor if the virus was spreading to surfaces in a food industry environment. ‘Not only in food processing factories

but also in retail environments like supermarkets. A lot of the enquiries that we got earlier on was advice on areas that | @scwmagazine

a safe alternative,’ This surrogate is a bacteriophage which means it can be grown on a host using an agar plate. That is another option to determine if a cleaning regime has been effective,’ notes D’Agostino. ‘They can actually go on site and artificially infect a surface before and after cleaning. Looking at the numbers before and after to see how effective that cleaning regime has been.’ Towards the end of 2020 Campden BRI

started looking at how it could provide more assurance. The decision was taken to set up a service for the testing of personnel. Having the Labware LIMS in place meant Campden BRI could quickly scale up its PCR testing to enable this new service. The LIMS also helped ensure that the samples met with United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) regulation standards. ‘We have just launched the [personnel

“If you pick up Sars-CoV-2 on an environmental surface, it’s likely fairly heavily contaminated”

might be contaminated with Sars-CoV-2,’ said D’Agostino. ‘People early on adapted fairly quickly by

introducing enhanced cleaning regimes, making sure that the disinfectants they were using were suitable for use against this type of virus,’ notes D’Agostino. ‘But, as time went on, more evidence emerged to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through the air and by person to person. Organisations have become interested in the whole environment processes that can be used to clean areas. ‘Environmental swabbing can make

sure that whatever cleaning regime you are using is effective. If you get a positive result after doing that you might have questions raised. It also suggests that there may be someone in that area who was asymptomatic and was then spreading the virus onto surfaces’ D’Agostino added. ‘If you pick up Sars-CoV-2 on an environmental surface, then chances are it has been fairly heavily contaminated.’ This testing helps organisations

develop more effective cleaning regimes and provides assurances to staff that contamination can be avoided if the correct steps are taken. It also helps to minimise risk to staff and help keep the business functional, as the chances for outbreaks are reduced. ‘My colleagues have been using a

surrogate virus, a virus that is very similar in shape and structure to the Sars-CoV-2 but it is a surrogate, so it is

testing] service, so the total demand is still not known but we are looking to do between 150 and 300 per day. To process that number of samples we needed the LIMS in place,’ said D’Agostino. ‘There are a whole range of services

that we can offer as part of a complete service. If people get positives in their environmental samples, that may trigger them to take on personnel testing. It is more difficult in a retail setting, because you do not know if that has been caused by a member of the public or the employees but you could use this testing to make sure. ‘It is very useful to have all the processes that LIMS has to be able to go to the UKAS accreditation service and demonstrate that we can handle that data correctly. ‘The first phase that we have gone

through here has been a fairly basic setup, where we input the data manually to the LIMS system. At the moment we are not reading barcodes but associating the personal details with a barcode number. We then get a report once that has all been completed,’ said D’Agostino. ‘Our team is also working on being able to export a CSV file so we can easily copy the data across to Public Health England. That is another requirement of clinical swab testing.’ Phase two is more focused on

automation. The ideal situation would be that a person could log on to a computer, input their personal details, then we would receive that sample and scan the barcode, which would automatically upload all of that information onto the LIMS system. ‘Another part of the work would be uploading that data to the PCR instrument, and then you could not only produce the report but also draft emails which would be a much more complete system,’ D’Agostino added.

Winter 2021 Scientific Computing World 25

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