On Wednesday, 22nd of May, the SEW Scientific Services Microbiology Department – led by Marcus Bedford, hosted the biannual SCA (Standing Committee of Analysts) meeting. 24 members of the Microbiology Working Group have attended the event to discuss ways of sampling and analysis of waters, effluents, sewage sludges, sediments, soils and biota.
The afternoon was dedicated to learning and method development, with speakers presenting information from their specific area of expertise. Among other things, the discussions referred to the uses of blue books and how these guides can be updated. According to Microbiology Manager Marcus Bedford, the SCA is aiming to analyse the information provided within the ISO British standards and convert it into a more user friendly format. This easy to understand “translation”, a.k.a. blue book, is then made available free of charge on the SCA website. Another topic of interest approached at the gathering was focused on Legionella analysis. During the talks, it was highlighted that most water dedicated laboratories that currently test for legionella are using methods which are based on the ISO guides from 1998 and 2004. While explaining the need for new, updated, references for their testing methods, the SCA members spoke about how they will join efforts to create the first Legionella blue book. The Microbiology Working Group is also giving a lot of consideration to the potential update of the Cryptosporidium blue book, which will be designed to help users achieve a more representative level of understanding of the current methods. These are just a few examples of what the SCA is planning, however, the long-term objective is to update each individual guide over the course of the next few years.
The TECTA-PDS detector, an alternative to Colilert?
Before the end of the meeting, the participants turned their attention to new technologies. An interesting example would be the TECTA-PDS detector, which should work similarly to the popular Colilert method, by looking at the same enzyme reactions. In addition to Colilert, this instrument has the capability of automatically reading the samples, interpreting and reporting the results.
Flow Cytometry vs. HPC
The meeting concluded with discussions on how another emerging technology, flow cytometry, can be used by water companies to monitor microbiological activity. It is expected that, in time, FCM will replace the traditional HPC (heterotrophic plate count) analysis. Obtaining accreditation for the new method may be a long-winded process, due to the degree of interpretation involved when testing the samples. However, all efforts will pay off as the data obtained using flow cytometry is unquestionably superior to HPC.
We hope you find this information useful and, if you are interested in the SCA’s work, check our website again in November, when the next meeting will take place.