Take a look at the picture above. It is the traditional wound swab. It seems to have been around since the beginning of time.
But not for much longer…. Why?
These swabs are slowly but surely being replaced by swabs that are not only better, but are also adapted/designed to be placed on automated platforms.
The new swabs look something like this:
So what are the differences?
- The transport medium is liquid. This allows a more standardised concentration of bacteria throughout the transport medium. It also allows the sample to be pipetted out (either manually or on an automated platform) onto the plates, again more standardised than taking the swab out of the gel and directly inoculating onto a plate. In addition, the liquid media allows fastidious organisms such as N. gonorrhoeae to survive for longer.
- The swab has a screw top cap: This allows automated de-capping in a de-capping instrument.
- The swab is the same size as a blood collection tube. This is intentional so that such swabs can be placed on automated tracks and automated inoculation platforms.
- The swab is “flocked”. This means it is made of 1000’s of perpendicular strands of nylon or some other synthetic material. This allows better pick-up and adherence of bacteria compared to traditional cotton swabs.
This change to the “new” swabs may already have happened in your area or region. As automated microbiology processing platforms become increasingly common over the next few years, the trickle towards the new swabs will become a flood.
Adding this to the quality benefits of the new swabs, I would not be surprised if the traditional wound swab becomes extinct in the next 10 years or so.
Rest in peace.