A microplate reader is one of the key methods of determining the chemical or biological properties of samples inserted into microtiter plates. The medical field has used it in their studies of microorganisms such as viruses and various biotechnological fields which include but are not limited to drug discovery, vaccine development and manufacturing, and bioassay validation. 


Aside from maximizing on operations, efficiency, cost, and accuracy, microplate readers can also facilitate researchers with easy data analysis. These microplate readers can detect all kinds of reactions emitted from the substance of study through measuring the light intensity, from fluorescence, luminescence, etcetera. 

The influence of Covid-19 and the medical sector

When the pandemic took hold of the world, it demanded for better efficiency from the medical industry. People in the field were scrambling for a cure, a vaccine, a way to detect the virus in the fastest and more efficient way possible. 


According to research, infectious diseases similar to influenza and vector borne diseases have been a driving force behind the growth of microplate readers in the global market. This means that prior to the coronavirus outbreak, there’s already been a significant headway in the industry. According to a report released by the World Health Organization back in 2017, dengue accounted for more than 390 million patients all over the world. Back in 2015, the International Journal of Nanomedicine released that there were 429,000 deaths caused by malaria. 


These examples in history have taught us that immediate medical action is crucial in curbing and containing outbreaks which are both infectious and deadly. True enough, a report which put microplate readers at US$ 534.5 million in 2019, has predicted that the industry’s value will shoot up to US$ 704.4 million by 2027, largely due to the hand that Covid-19 has played in it. 


As the virus continues to mutate and challenge the world as it currently is, more medical manufacturers are trying to come up with something that can halt it in its tracks and one of the more proven-to-be effective methods is to keep testing. Test yourself, test your neighbours, test your employees. Testing is the first line of defense against a virus which is running rampant in the world. 


North America currently holds a significant position in the global marketplace for microplate readers due to their ability to adapt and deal with the pandemic through their developed technology and sophisticated procedures which are already in place. Covid-19 isn’t the first pandemic that America has had to deal with. From 2004 to 2016, there was an increase in vector borne diseases in America, tripling over the years, making it a perfect environment for labs to channel their focus into fighting diseases. On the other hand, countries that haven’t had the need to invest in scientific bio-labs are now playing catch up with the sudden surge of Covid-19 cases.

The future of microplate readers 

With all this in mind, where is the medical industry headed and how might the continued fight against Covid-19 affect how it evolves? 


One word: automation.


The problem with the current pandemic - or any epidemic for that matter - is the rate of transmission. With a large window of time whereby a patient is infectious, and the vagueness of symptoms, or the chances of being asymptomatic, all these considerations come into play when it comes to transmitting the disease and infecting others. Some people can have absolutely no symptoms but carry a strain of the virus which is highly contagious, hence earning them the label of being a “super spreader”. 


The high volume of people becoming infected and the limited number of resources available has put a strain on the medical sector and medical institutes are being pushed to the limit. Hospitals are being overrun and frontliners are overworked and exhausted. 


One way to introduce some semblance of order back into the medical world is to add automation into the playing field. 


According to Global News, “the microplate reader market is segmented into hospital and diagnostic laboratories, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and research and academic institutes” and the technology is becoming increasingly effective with readers detecting samples within seconds and having the option of automation.


As reported by Digital Journal, “The drug discovery is expected to be the fastest-growing lab automation market, by application, during the forecast period.” Hence, less time spent on grunt work and more time spent on what truly matters. While we already have vaccines for Covid-19, it isn’t particularly effective in staving off transmission. Mortality rate has dropped significantly, but in order for us to beat this virus for good, we need a sustainable model that works against an ever-evolving virus and this is what automated microplate readers can do for us by taking a load off.