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Title:
A METHOD FOR QUANTITATIVE TRANSFER OF ANALYTES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/154849
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method for transferring a quantity of analytes, such as micro-organisms, antibodies/antigens, anti-microbially-acting substances, nucleotides, antibiotics, hormones, DNA sequences, enzymes, organic material, biological material or material of biological origin, terrain-enriching supplements or selective supplements of cultivating land, comprising at least stages of: predisposing a substantially homogeneous mixture of a predetermined initial quantity of at least an analyte and a liquid, obtaining a concentration value or known amount of the analyte in the mixture; introducing into the mixture at least a collecting portion (3) of a sampling device (1) having a support body (2), the collecting portion (3) comprising a first portion (2a) of the support body (2) and a plurality of fibres (6) attached to and arranged on the first portion (2a) of the support body (2) by means of flocking, in order to define a flocked collecting portion (3) or a flocked tampon, such as to collect a part of the mixture on the collecting portion (3); and extracting the collecting portion (3) of the sampling device (1) of the mixture, retaining on the sampling portion (3) a predetermined known quantity of the mixture to be transferred.

Inventors:
TRIVA, Daniele (Via dei Prati, 22/A, Bovezzo, I-25073, IT)
Application Number:
IB2011/050246
Publication Date:
December 15, 2011
Filing Date:
January 19, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
COPAN ITALIA S.P.A. (Via Perotti 10, Brescia, I-25125, IT)
TRIVA, Daniele (Via dei Prati, 22/A, Bovezzo, I-25073, IT)
International Classes:
G01N1/02; A61B10/00; A61B10/02; B01L3/00; C12M1/30
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GALASSI, Alessandro (Via Mascheroni 31, Milano, I-20145, IT)
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Claims:
Claims.

1. A method for transferring a quantity of analytes, such as micro-organisms, antibodies/antigens, anti-microbially-acting substances, nucleotides, antibiotics, hormones, DNA sequences, enzymes, organic material, biological material or material of biological origin, terrain-enriching supplements or selective supplements of cultivating land, comprising at least stages of:

predisposing a substantially homogeneous mixture of a predetermined initial quantity of at least an analyte and a liquid, obtaining a concentration value or known amount of the analyte in the mixture;

introducing into the mixture at least a collecting portion (3) of a sampling device (1) having a support body (2), the collecting portion (3) comprising a first portion (2a) of the support body (2) and a plurality of fibres (6) attached to and arranged on the first portion (2a) of the support body (2) by means of flocking, in order to define a flocked collecting portion (3) or a flocked tampon, such as to collect a part of the mixture on the collecting portion (3); and

extracting the collecting portion (3) of the sampling device (1) from the mixture, retaining on the sampling portion (3) a predetermined known quantity of the mixture to be transferred.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the stage of predisposing the mixture comprises stages of:

predisposing the predetermined initial quantity of analyte;

mixing the predetermined initial quantity of analyte with the liquid in order to obtain a mixture of the predetermined initial quantity of analyte in the liquid, and/or the stage of: making the mixture substantially homogeneous.

3. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the stage of obtaining a known concentration value of the analyte in the mixture is performed by mixing a known quantity of the analyte with a known quantity of the liquid and/or by means of a stage of measuring a concentration value of the analyte in the mixture.

4. The method of any one of the preceding claims, further comprising a stage of measuring a quantity of mixture that is effectively retained in the collecting portion (3) during the stage of extracting the collecting portion (3) of the sampling device (1) from the mixture and/or wherein the stage of measuring is done by means of a comparison between the initial weight of the mixture before insertion in the collecting portion (3) and the final weight of the mixture after extraction of the collecting portion (3), or by means of a comparison between the weight of the sampling device (1) before insertion in the mixture and the weight of the sampling device (1) after extraction from the mixture.

5. The method of any one of the preceding claims, further comprising a stage of drying or freeze-drying at least the collecting portion (3), provided with the predetermined quantity of mixture to be transferred, in order to obtain a pre-dosed sampling device (1) having a predetermined quantity of dried or freeze-dried analyte on the collecting portion (3) and/or further comprising stages of inserting the collecting portion (3) in a vacuum container and generating a condition of substantial vacuum in the vacuum container, during the stage of drying or freeze-drying or independently of the stage of drying or freeze-drying.

6. The method of the preceding claim, further comprising a stage of revitalising or rehydrating the predetermined quantity of dried or freeze-dried analyte on the collecting portion (3), for example by means of at least a nutrient and/or hydrating solution, in order to obtain a predetermined quantity of rehydrated analyte on the collecting portion (3) and/or further comprising a stage of releasing at least 85% or at least 90% or at least 95% of the predetermined quantity to be transferred of the mixture or the predetermined quantity of analyte, by means of direct seeding on a dish, or dilution in liquid terrain in order to enable analysis on the analyte to be carried out.

7. The method of any one of the preceding claims, wherein the flocked collecting portion (3) is configured such as to receive a substantially known quantity of the mixture, or to collect a quantity comprised between 5 and 1000 microlitres of the mixture, or between 10 and 500 microlitres of the mixture, or between 50 and 200 microlitres of the mixture, or between 80 and 120 microlitres of the mixture, and/or to collect a quantity of at least 0.5 μΐ per mm2' at least 0.6 μΐ per mm2, or at least 0.7 μΐ per mm2, or at least 0.75 μΐ per mm2' and/or in which the fibres (6) are arranged on the first portion (2a) of the support body (2) in a substantially ordered way and in such a way as to form a substantially continuous layer on the collecting portion (3), and/or are arranged on the collecting portion (3) such as to define a plurality of capillary interstices (9) adapted to absorb the mixture by capillarity.

8. The method of the preceding claim, wherein the fibres (6) have a linear density or fiber count comprised between 1.7 and 3.3 Dtex, and/or a length comprised between 0.6 and 3 mm and/or a surface density of the fibres (6) on the collecting portion (3) comprised between 50 and 500 fibres per mm2 or between 100 and 200 fibres per mm2 and/or are made of a substantially non-hydrophilic or non-adsorbent material with regard to the mixture, and/or of a material selected from: polyamide, rayon, polyester, carbon fibre, alginate, a natural material which is non-adsorbent with regard to the mixture, or a mixture of the above materials.

9. A pre-dosed sampling device (1) comprising a support body (2) and a flocked collecting portion (3), the collecting portion (3) being provided with a predetermined known quantity of an analyte to be transferred and/or with a predetermined dried known quantity of an analyte to be transferred, preferably realised by means of a method according to any one of the preceding claims.

10. A kit for performing diagnostic or chemical tests, such as positive or negative controls, or for transferring labile substances in a hydrated phase to cultivating terrains, comprising at least a sampling device (1), realised according to any one of claims from 1 to 8, and/or further comprising means for drying or lyophilising a predetermined quantity of mixture on a collecting portion (3) of the sampling device (1) and/or means for revitalising a predetermined quantity of dried or freeze-dried analyte on the collecting portion (3) of the sampling device (1), such as for example test tubes containing nutrient and/or hydrating solutions.

Description:
A Method for quantitative transfer of analytes.

The present invention relates to a method for quantitative transfer of analytes. The method is applicable for example in clinical, diagnostic and in general analytical sectors, in order to enable a sampling and transferring of predetermined known quantities of analytes towards a place of use thereof for analysis or tests of various nature.

The method is specifically applicable for collection and transfer of various substances, such as for example: micro-organisms, antibodies/antigens, antimicrobial acting substances, nucleotides, antibiotics, hormones, DNA sequences, enzymes, enrichment substances or selective supplements of cultivatable terrain, and in general organic material, biological material or of biological origin or the like.

The prior art comprises very numerous applications in which known quantities of analytes must be used, such as organic or biological substances, for various analytical or diagnostic needs. For example, company programs for verifying microbiological quality include the use of standard micro-organism cultures for verification that the requisites indicated by the reference standards have been met. For this purpose, microbiological controls are performed for verifying and validating the laboratory methods and procedures, which can for example comprise controlling the effectiveness of the selective and nutritional components of soil used for microbe culture, and also for verification of the effectiveness of inactivation operations of micro-organisms, or other for other purposes.

A further known example is given by diagnostic kits which are provided with positive and negative controls of a substance to be identified and which enable control and validation of the kit itself, as well as the test procedure and preparation of the sample to be analysed. For example, in search and identification tests of a bacterium, aimed at diagnosis of present or previous infections, such in the specific case of Staphylococcus aureus in a test for agglutination, a positive control performed using a sample of the bacterium must provide evident agglutination, while a negative control of the same bacterium must give no agglutination within the predetermined times included in the analytical protocol. In a further example, in research kits for food matrix inhibitors, as in the specific case of research for antimicrobials in a milk test, a positive control performed using a solution containing an antibiotic must provide a positive result in the set times and in accordance with the test procedures.

Normally, positive controls are supplied in liquid form or freeze-dried in pellets, or powder to be re-hydrated before use, as the limited stability of rehydrated positive controls limits working life thereof significantly. Further, quantitative release in the case of controls supplied on a support is generally limited, so to obtain a positive test response, there is a general tendency to use an excess of control sample of the substance to be researched such as to exceed the quantitative threshold for each test.

As is known in the field of microbial resistance tests, after isolating the micro-organism it is necessary to determine which substance can combat the micro-organism, and in which concentration. Normally these tests are carried out by preparing a series of serial dilutions starting from a known matrix solution. The procedure for preparing the dilutions is laborious and therefore has negative economic effect on productivity of the processes carried out in the analytical laboratory. The collecting and transfer devices of known type generally used in laboratories are constituted for example by Pasteur pipettes, syringes, pads or spoons.

In all the above-cited examples, and in general in all analyte transfer methodologies and following analysis thereof, there are numerous problem areas. These problem areas are linked for example to the complexity of the preparation procedures of the analytes and the difficulties in transferring and conserving them. Note that many analytes require, for their conservation over time, very specific and controlled environmental conditions. Also the correct quantification of analytes is often complex, especially in a case of use of very small quantities of analytes, as the only way for obtaining the desired small quantity consists in preparing an analyte solution when needed having a known concentration and in directly removing a part of the solution immediately after having prepared it.

Often long, complex and expensive operations are required in order to be able to perform analysis. Further, various known analytic methodologies require the use of extremely precise quantities of analyte, for the performance of comparative tests or other analyses, and this is often difficult to obtain, if not with delicate and laborious operations. In other words, with the prior art it is not possible to avail of various types of analyte each time there is a need therefor, in the quantities and specific modes suitable for the required application.

The main aim of the present invention is to obviate one or more of the problems encountered in the prior art. An aim of the present invention is to provide a method for transferring quantities of analytes which enables a sample to be obtained as well as a quantitatively-correct and precise transfer of analytes.

A further aim of the present invention is to provide a method for quantitative transfer of analytes which is also very efficient for analytes which are difficult to collect, transfer, conserve or treat.

A further aim of the present invention is to make available a method for quantitative transfer of analytes which reduces the risk of contaminations on the part of the users. A further aim of the present invention is to make available a method for quantitative transfer of analytes which is applicable and effective with a broad range of analytes. A further aim of the present invention is to make available a method for quantitative transfer of analytes which provides analytes that are ready for use in analytic or diagnostic tests, also in quantities which are very small and precise.

A further aim of the present invention is to make available a method for quantitative transfer of analytes which enables a pre-dosed sampling device to be realised of a known predetermined quantity of analyte and/or for any quantity, even a very small quantity, of analyte and/or in which the method is realisable for a broad range of analytes and/or in which the pre-dosed device exhibits analytes in a rapid-use condition. A further aim of the present invention is to make available a method for quantitative analyte transfer which enables significant reduction of the complexity, the time and the costs involved in the performance of a broad range of diagnostic analyses and tests.

A further aim of the present invention is to make available a method for quantitative analyte transfer which is simple and economical to use.

These aims and others besides, which will more fully emerge from the following description, are substantially attained by a method for quantitative transfer of analytes as set out in one or more of the accompanying claims, taken one by one or in combination, or in any combination with one or more of the described characteristics. The invention also relates to a method according to one or more of the appended method claims, wherein a stage of making a mixture substantially homogeneous is performed by vortexisation and/or by agitation using a shaker device.

The invention also relates to a method according to one or more of the appended method claims, further comprising the stage of realising a pre-dosed device provided with a predetermined known quantity of analyte.

The invention further relates to a method of one or more of the appended method claims, wherein the stages of inserting at least a collecting portion and extracting the collecting portion are manually performed by an operator and/or in which the method further comprises at least a stage of extracting the sterile device from a sealed and sterile pack before inserting the collecting portion in the mixture.

The invention further relates to a method of one or more of the appended method claims, in which the stage of inserting a collecting portion of the mixture is performed by direct immersion of the collecting portion in at least a micro-container or by means of a pump for micro-volumes.

The invention further relates to use of a device, as in one or more of the appended method claims, for performing stages of a method as in claims 1 to 8. By way of non- limiting example, a detailed description will now follow of some preferred embodiments of the invention, in which:

figure 1 is a flow diagram schematically illustrated some embodiments of a method of the invention;

figure 2 is a lateral view of a device according to an embodiment of the present invention;

figure 2a is a view of a detail of the device of figure 2, relating to a collecting portion; figure 3 is a container of an embodiment of the present invention.

Figure 1 illustrates a method for quantitative transfer of analytes of the present invention, which comprises at least stages of predisposing (stage A in figure 1) a substantially homogeneous mixture, of at least a predetermined initial quantity of at least an analyte and a liquid; obtaining (stage A4) at least a known concentration of the analyte in the mixture; inserting (stage B) at least a collecting portion 3 of a sampling device 1 having a support body 2 in the mixture, the collecting portion 3 comprising a first portion 2a of the support body 2 and a plurality of fibres 6 attached and arranged on the first portion 2a of the support body 2 by flocking, in order to define a flocked collecting portion 3, or a flocked pad, such as to collect a part of the mixture on the collecting portion 3.

In the present description, the expression "substantially homogeneous" relates to mixtures commonly defined as homogeneous, in which the components are no longer distinguishable and are in a single phase (for example solutions), and also types of mixtures generally considered heterogeneous, but which in any case exhibit, at macroscopic level, a high level of reciprocal mixing which precludes a macroscopic distinction of the various components. For example, "substantially homogeneous" is used to refer to each substance which is substantially constant in sufficiently small quantities, even if this is obtained only for a limited period of time thanks to a deliberate stage of mixing of the components of the mixtures. In other words, "substantially homogeneous" might relate to a mixture between an analyte and a liquid in which it is possible to determine, with a sufficient degree of precision, the quantity of analyte contained in a determined quantity of samplable mixture contained in a determined quantity of mixture which can be collected by the collecting portion 3 of the sampling device 1, in order to determine the quantity of analyte collected. The mixture can be saturated or not, and can also exhibit a bottom residue, as the part of the substantially homogeneous mixture of interest is the one in which the desired concentration is definable and substantially uniform in various zones of the mixture.

The method further comprises a stage of extracting (stage C in figure 1) the collecting portion 3 of the sampling device 1 from the mixture, while retaining, on the collecting portion 3, a predetermined known quantity to be transferred of the mixture. The method can be aimed at transferring analytes such as for example micro-organisms, antibodies/antigens, anti-microbial substances, nucleotides, antibiotics, hormones, DNA sequences, enzymes, organic materials, biological materials or materials of biological origin, enriching supplements or selective supplements of cultivating terrain, or the like. The stage of predisposing the mixture can comprise sub-stages of predisposing (stage Al) the predetermined initial quantity of analyte; mixing (stage A2) the predetermined initial quantity of analyte with the liquid in order to obtain a mixture of the predetermined initial quantity of analyte and liquid, and/or a stage of rendering the mixture substantially homogeneous (stage A3), for example by vortexing and/or by shaking using a shaker device. The mixture can be predisposed for example in a suitable container. The stage of obtaining a known concentration value of the analyte in the mixture can be performed by mixing a known quantity of the analyte with a known quantity of the liquid and/or via the stage of measuring a concentration value of the analyte in the mixture.

The method can further comprise a stage of measuring (stage CI) the quantity of mixture effectively retained in the collecting portion 3 during the stage of extracting the collecting portion 3 of the sampling device from the mixture. The stage of measuring can be performed by means of a comparison between the initial weight of the mixture before inserting the collecting portion 3 and the final weight of the mixture after extraction of the collecting portion 3, or by a comparison between the weight of the sampling device 1 before insertion of the mixture and the weight of the sampling device 1 after extraction from the mixture.

The method can further comprise a stage of dehydrating, drying (stage D) or freeze- drying (stage E) at least the collecting portion 3, provided with the predetermined quantity of mixture to be transferred, in order to obtain a pre-dosed sampling device 1 having a predetermined quantity of dried or freeze-dried analyte on the collecting portion 3. The stage of drying can be performed, for example, by drying in an oven or by forced ventilation, or using another method of known type and suitable for treating the specific analyte. The pre-dosed sampling device 1 comprises a support body 2 and a flocked collecting portion 3 provided with a predetermined known quantity of an analyte to be transferred and/or a predetermined and dried known quantity of an analyte to be transferred.

The method can also comprise stages of inserting the collecting portion 3 in a vacuum container (of known type and therefore not illustrated in the figures) and generating a depression or vacuum in the container. This stage of generating a depression or vacuum can be performed during the stage of drying or freeze-drying, or in another moment, separately from the stage of drying or freeze-drying.

The method can further comprise a stage of revitalising or re-hydrating (stage F) the predetermined quantity of dried or freeze-dried analyte on the collecting portion 3, for example with at least a nutritional and/or hydrating solution, in order to obtain a predetermined quantity of rehydrated analyte on the collecting portion 3. The method can further comprise a stage of releasing (stage G) at least 85% of the predetermined quantity to be transferred of the mixture or the predetermined analyte quantity, by means of direct seeding on a dish, or dilution in a liquid terrain in order to enable performing analysis on the analyte. The method can also comprise one or more stages of analysis of the analyte thus released.

The method can further comprise stages of inserting the collecting portion 3, provided with the analyte, in a container 7 such as for example a test tube, closing the container 7 with a cap 5 or closing cover and transferring the container 7 comprising the collecting portion 3 and/or the stage of predisposing, in the container 7, a predetermined quantity of a substance 8 destined to liquefy and/or conserve the analyte and/or a stage of agitating, shaking or rotating the container 7 comprising the collecting portion 3 with the analyte at a predetermined velocity and destined to liquefy the analyte.

There now follows a description of a sampling device 1 which serves also for transferring a quantity of analyte, according to an embodiment of the invention.

With reference to the figures of the drawings, 1 denotes in its entirety a manual device 1 for sampling and transferring quantities of analytes of various nature and composition. The sampling device 1 comprises a support body 2 which can be elongate and/or substantially rod-shaped. The support body 2 can have any section, which can even be variable along the longitudinal extension thereof. The support body 2 is provided with a first portion 2a, for example an end portion, defining a collecting portion 3 for the analyte, a second portion 2b which is central and substantially rod-shaped, and a third portion 23 c which is an end portion at which the body 2 can be manually gripped by an operator or which is connectable to a further gripping element 4 such as a cover 5 for a test tube or the like.

The collecting portion 3 for the analyte can be conformed as a pad. The collecting portion 3 is flocked, realised by flocking of a plurality of fibres 6 on the first end 2a of the body. The fibres 6 flocked on the first end can be made of a non-hydrophilous material, for example nylon, but the collecting portion 3 is hydrophilous by effect of capillarity thanks to the characteristics of the fibres 6 and the distribution thereof on the support body 2. In other terms, the collecting portion 3 can exhibit a continuous layer of fibres 6 made of a substantially non-absorbent material of the analyte, but conformed in an orderly plurality of capillary interstices 9 in which a predetermined quantity of the analyte can be retained by imbibing, and from which the quantity of analyte can subsequently be released quantitavely at the moment of analysis, for example by rubbing the collecting portion 3 on a special releasing surface.

An example of this type of flocked pad is illustrated in patent EP.1,608,268 belonging to the same Applicant, the content of which in the structure of the flocked pad is incorporated for purposes of reference in the present description.

As described in the above-cited patent, depositing by flocking produces, on the involved end of the sampling device 1, a continuous and homogeneous layer of a plurality of fibres 6 in an ordered arranged, substantially perpendicular in each point of the first portion 2a of the support body 2 and each of which being substantially parallel to the adjacent fibres 6. A corresponding ordered plurality of capillary interstices 9 is defined between the fibres 6, in which interstices 9 a predetermined quantity of the analyte can be collected and retained by imbibing due to capillarity.

The flocked layer can subsequently quantitatively release the collected analyte, for example by rubbing on a surface or by means of dilution of the analyte in a dilutant. The flocked collecting portion 3 is configured and dimensioned such as to collect a substantially known quantity of analyte and/or mixture, or to collect a quantity of mixture comprised, for example, between 5 and 1000 microlitres, 10 microlitres and 500 microlitres, or between 50 and 200 microlitres, or between 80 and 120 microlitres. The fibres 6 can be arranged on the support body 2 in a substantially ordered way and such as to form a substantially continuous layer on the collecting portion 3 and/or are arranged on the collecting portion 3 such as define a plurality of capillary interstices 9 destined to absorb the mixture by capillarity. The fibres have a linear density or fibre count between 1.7 and 3.3 Dtex, and/or have a length comprised between 0.6 and 3 mm. The fibres 6 can be flocked on the collecting portion 3 of the support body 2 with a surface density for example comprised between 50 and 500 fibres per mm , or between 100 and 200 fibres per mm 2 . The layer of fibres can define an absorption capacity for example at least of 0.5 μΐ per mm 2 , or at least 0.6 μΐ per mm 2 , or at least 0.7 μΐ per mm 2 , or at least 0.75 μΐ per mm 2 . The fibres 6 can be made of a substantially non-hydrophilic material, or a material which does not adsorb the mixture or the analyte, and/or of a material selected from among: polyamide, rayon, polyester, carbon fibre, alginate, a natural material which is non-adsorbent with regard to the mixture, or a mixture of the above materials.

The support body 2 can exhibit a longitudinal extension which is comprised between 2 cm and 20 cm, or between 3 cm and 18 cm, or between 6 cm and 16 cm and/or a thickness or diameter in a perpendicular section to the central axis thereof which is comprised between 0.5 mm and 5 mm, or between 1 mm and 3 mm, or between 1.5 and 2.5 mm.

The collecting portion 3 can exhibit a longitudinal extension which is comprised between 8 cm and 0.5 cm, or between 5 cm and 1 cm and/or a diameter or thickness, comprising the fibers 6, between 10 mm and 1 mm or between 8 mm and 2 mm or between 5 mm and 2.5 mm.

The collecting portion 3 can exhibit any suitable shape for the specific type of analyte to be sampled, for example rounded or with one or more live edges.

The support body 2 can be provided with an intermediate weakening portion destined to facilitate a selective breakage of the body 2 in an intermediate position thereof between the first end and the second end, for example in order to facilitate insertion of the collecting portion 3 into a container 7 for transport.

The sampling device 1 can comprise a plurality of support bodies, each provided with a collecting portion 3 having a conformation or shape which is different and specifically configured for collecting a specific type of analyte, or for collecting a specific quantity of analyte. The sampling device 1 can further comprise a container 7 for transport of the analyte having an internal containment seating 10 and an access opening 11. The container 7 can be a test tube for transport of samples of biological material or material of biological origin. The sampling device 1 can further comprise a closing cap 5 which is removably mountable to the opening access in order to selectively close the container 7.

The sampling device 1 can further comprise at least a drying or de-humidifying element, for example a bag containing silicon gel, housed in the container 7 or in another useful position. The container 7 and/or the closing cap 5 and/or the support body 2 can be realised in a plastic material, for example polystyrol or polystyrene or polypropylene and/or in a material suitable for use with biological materials or materials of biological origin. The container 7 and/or the closing cap 5 and/or the support body 2 can be sterilised. The sampling device 1 can further comprise a sealed pack (not illustrated in the figures as of known type) in which the support body 2 and/or the container 7 and the closing cap 5 can be housed before use for collecting an analyte. The support body 2, the pack, the container 7 and the cap 5 can be sterile.

The invention further enables realising a kit for performing diagnostic or chemical tests, such as positive or negative controls, or for transferring fragile substances in water medium for cultivating terrain supplement, comprising at least a sampling device 1 of the above-described type, and further comprising means for drying or freeze-drying a predetermined quantity of mixture on a collecting portion 3 of the sampling device 1 and/or means for revitalising a predetermined quantity of dried or freeze-dried analyte or on the collecting portion 3 of the sampling device 1 , such as for example test tubes containing nutritional and/or hydrating solutions.

As previously mentioned, the invention makes it possible to design and realised pre- dosed devices for transferring analytes with substantially complete release of the analyte collected at the desired moment of use, the amount of usable analyte being at least 85% of the collected sample analyte.

The pre-dosed devices are applicable to various uses, among which the fields of diagnosis, chemistry, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food, water control, etc. Among the analytes which can be sampled and thereafter made available for laboratory use, the following can be mentioned by way of example:

analytes of a biological and microbiological nature, such as for example microorganisms, antibodies, antigens, hormonally-acting substances, oligo-nucleotides or sequences of DNA, enzymes, etc;

analytes of a chemical nature, such as for example antibiotics, enrichment supplements comprising proteins, selective supplements, etc.

For a better comprehension of the characteristics and advantages of the invention, herein below some specific but non-limiting examples are given of practical actuation, with reference to the preferred embodiment constituted by a pad on an end of which a layer of fibres 6 is deposited, such as for example nylon fibres, by flocking. A further application is the transfer of organic material coming from various body or environmental areas. Further, purely by way of non-limiting illustration of the invention, a table is presented in which the main fields of application of the pre-dosed system are summarised, in relation to the substance to be examined in the respective tests.

Example 1

In a first embodiment of the invention, the invention is applied to a transfer of a quantity of living and stabilised microbes, for example for realisation of a quality control kit in the microbiological field. A pre-dosed sampling device is realised for transfer of living micro-organisms which following a suitable de-hydrating process enables conservation and transport of living and stable microbe populations; at the same time the sampling device 1, in the form of a pad, provides a suitable system for direct seeding of the analyte sample on a dish or solid substrate or for dilution in a solvent or in liquid terrain.

The kit comprises a flocked pad on which, via an imbibing and subsequent freeze- drying process, a determined microbe colony at a known concentration is collected. The application field of these devices covers various clinical and food areas. The kit includes means for revitalising the freeze-dried colony, i.e. test tubes containing nutritional and/or hydrating solutions.

A specific example will now be described, relating to Escherichia Coli ATCC 25922. Similar results however can be obtained with other micro-organisms.

In the present example, the pre-dosed flocked pads of freeze-dried micro-organisms are realised in a quantitative form: about 300 UFC of Escherichia Coli are transferred onto the pad, subjected to a freeze-drying process and then recuperated at the end of the drying process. The pre-dosed devices of freeze-dried micro-organisms can be used as reference standards in microbiological quality control in various fields, such as for example the pharmaceutical industry, in water and waste water testing, in the food industry, the cosmetic industry, and others besides.

An essential requisite for realising these device for guaranteeing standardisation of the analytical methods is that the release of the sample deposited on the collecting portion 3 of the sampling device 1 must be completely released during use. In order to realise pre- dosed sampling devices 1, the flocked collecting portion 3 is imbibed by using a microbial solution at known concentration such as to guarantee that a total quantity of about 300 UFC is transferred onto each pad. The quantity of microbial injection to be used, in the particular case of the pad, can be comprised in a range of from 10 to 200 μΐ. and in the specific case 100 μL. The concentration of the microbial suspension used is about 3000 UFC/mL; the microbial suspension at the desired concentration is directly realised in the conservation means which contains cryo-protective substances and neutralising agents which are able to conserve the vitality of the cells. The injection of the pads with the microbial suspension is achieved by direct immersion in microwells; similarly a micro-volume pump can be used. The pad is inserted into a suitable depression container which can support depression technology and freeze-drying, which is dehydration, and at the end of the process it is sealed directly in a state of depression. The tests performed for qualifying the sampling device 1 for known-quantity transfer relate to verifying of the recuperation of the deposited colonies, the vitality and stability over time under different conservation conditions. The tests were performed directly by seeding on solid terrain or by solution in a known volume, specifically 500μί of hydrating substance. The comparison for verification of the transfer was performed using a same seeding of the sample collected using a micro-pipette.

The following table reports the mean values of the counts performed by direct seeding on solid terrain of the pre-dosed pads with Escherichia Coli, compared with similar results obtained using a conventional volumetric method for the transfer of the microbial suspension, such as the micro-pipette. The data relate to a sample of 50 pre- dosed pads.

Type Count Count of pre- Range Mean

with dosed pad (min-max) recuperatio micropi n % pette

E. coli 297.8 285.8 293-279 96%

The table reports the mean values of the counts performed by dilution of the pre-dosed pad in 500μΙ, of PBS and seeding on solid terrain of the whole sample thus reconstituted with similar results obtained using, for the transfer of the microbial suspension, a conventional volumetric method such as the micro-pipette. The data refers to a sample of 50 pre-dosed pads.

The flocked pad has been shown to be an excellent quantity-transfer device for maintaining the microbe colonies by a freeze-drying process. The reproducibility of the system is good, as is its stability over time.

Example 2.

In a second embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 is comprised in a quality control kit in lateral flow diagnostic systems of the immune-enzymatic type, such as kits for influenza, Strep A, MRSA, HIV, RSV, and the like. In the particular case the sample device 1 is used for transfer of antigens/antibodies which following a dehydration process enables conservation and stabilisation of the analyte. The pre-dosed system with the quantity of analyte modulated according to the LOD (limit of detection, or cut-off) of the specific test provides a positive control usable in the reference diagnostic kit.

The kit comprises a flocked pad on which a determined antigen or antibody at a known concentration is placed by an imbibing and subsequent drying process. The field of application of these devices covers various clinical and pharmaceutical ambits. The kit includes means which enable the test to be completed. These are devices loaded with antigens or antibodies that the kit is sensitive to (in the case of positive controls) or with no antigen/antibody or with antigens/antibodies that are different from the targets of the kit (in the case of negative controls).

Further, these controls have the aim of illustrating, to the final user, how the positive and negative results of the test should present. The sampling device 1 provided with a continuous layer of polymer composition enables interaction of an adsorbent type with the transferred analytes, guaranteeing complete collection of the analyte by the solvent means without absorption internally of the layer. This surface-interacting mechanism is a guarantee of the complete release of the analyte during use.

Example 3.

In a third embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 is comprised in a quality control kit for research for inhibiting substances in milk and derivatives; similar applications are also possible for other food matrices. In this case the sampling device 1 is for the transfer of anti-microbial substances which successively enables a suitable dehydrating system for dehydrating to conserve the analyte. The pre-dosed system with a predefined quantity of anti-microbe substance provides, after rehydration, a positive control for the reference test in the milk sample. The kit comprises a flocked pad to which, by a drying process, a determined antibiotic with a known concentration is adhered. The kit includes means which enable the test to be performed. These are devices loaded with antibiotics to which the kit is sensitive (in the case of positive controls) or without any antibiotic or with antibiotics that are different from the kit's targets (in the case of negative controls). Further, these controls have the aim of illustrating, for the benefit of the final user, how the positive and negative result of the test should be presented.

Example 4.

In a fourth embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 is comprised in a kit for verifying the resistance to antibiotics of determined micro-organisms (MIC, minimum concentration inhibitor). In this case the sampling device 1 for the transfer of antimicrobial substances subsequently enables an appropriate system for dehydration to stabilise the deposited antibiotics and make them available in tests for microbic resistance. The kit comprises a series of flocked pads on which, via a process of imbibing and drying, a determined different quantity is adhered of anti-microbe substance of known concentration. The field of application of these devices covers various clinical and pharmaceutical fields.

Example 5.

In a second embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 is comprised in a quality control kit with biochemical methods. In this case the sampling device 1 is for transfer of nucleotides and enables, following a suitable dehydrating process, conservation and stabilisation of the analyte. The system, pre-dosed with a quantity of analyte modulated according to the cut-off of the specific test, provides a positive control which can be used in the reference diagnostic method. The kit comprises a flocked pad on which, via a process of imbibing and subsequent drying, a determined nucleotide is adhered at a known concentration. The field of application of these devices covers various clinical and pharmaceutical ambits. The kit includes means which enable the test to be completed. These are devices loaded with nucleotides which can react with the reactives of the reference instruments, in the case of positive controls, or without nucleotides, in the case of negative controls. Further, these controls have the aim of illustrating to the final user how the positive and negative result of the test should be presented.

Example 6.

In a sixth embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 is comprised in a kit for quality control in tests for detecting hormones (e.g. pregnancy tests, anti-doping, etc.) In this case the sampling device 1 is for transferring the hormones, which following a dehydration process enables conservation and stabilisation of the analyte. The pre-dosed system, with a quantity of modulated analyte according to LOD (limit of detection, or cut-off) of the specific test provides a positive control usable in the reference diagnostic kit.

The kit comprises a flocked pad on which, by a process of imbibing and subsequent drying, a determined hormone at a known concentration adheres. The field of application of these devices covers various clinical and food areas.

The kit includes means which enable the test to be completed. These are devices loaded with hormones to which the kit is sensitive (in the case of positive controls), or without any hormones or with different hormones from the target hormones of the kit (in the case of negative controls). Further, these controls have the aim of illustrating to the final user how the positive and negative test results should be presented.

Example 7.

In a seventh embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 is comprised in a kit for quantitative transfer of biological samples coming from various body areas, or environmental samples from surface collections. In particular the sampling device 1 is used for quantity transfer of clinical samples, such as urine, faeces, bronchial washes, nostrils, vagina, pharynges, groin and other surface pads. The application relates to the control of microbial contamination of the samples.

Example 8.

In an eighth embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 is used for quantity transfer of a given quantity of organic sample comprising sperm, saliva, blood. The application relates to the analysis of nucleic acids contained in the sample.

Example 9.

In a further embodiment of the invention, the sampling device 1 comprises a kit for transfer, conservation and release of determined enrichment supplements and/or selective supplements for cultivated terrain. The sampling device 1 for quantitative transfer of substances for increasing the fertility of cultivating terrain (for example amino acids, sugars, proteins, etc.) or which enable growth of determined micro- organisms while preventing growth of others (such as for example salts, antibiotics, chemical substances, etc.) when specially imbibed and dehydrated enables a pre-dosed system to be obtained which is directly usable in the correct volume of liquid terrain. Many of the substances used for enriching cultivating terrain have a limited stability in the hydrated state; this limits and compromises the use of the terrain itself. The advantage of a pre-dosed sampling device 1 is that the system is available and ready to use, enabling a lengthening of the useful life of the cultivating terrain by simplifying management of the measures to be taken and the conservation of the terrain itself. The field of application of these devices covers various clinical, food and pharmaceutical areas.

The present invention provides one or more of the following advantages.

Firstly, the invention enables realisation of a method and a device realised in accordance with the method, which obviates the problems encountered in the prior art. A method of the invention leads to obtaining a sample and a transfer which are quantitatively correct and precise, of various types of analyte, and in a very efficient way, even with analytes that are difficult to sample, transfer, conserve or treat.

Further, the invention provides analytes that are ready for use in analytic or diagnostic examinations, in quantities that can be very small and precise, thanks to the realisation of pre-dosed quantities that are ready for use.

The invention enables significant reductions in complexity, time and costs involved in carrying out a broad range of diagnostic analyses and tests.

With the mvention, pre-dosed systems with different anti-microbial substances can be realised, thanks to which the subsequent injection of the micro-organisms into the growth terrain, added-to with systems pre-dosed with anti-microbials in various quantities enables an easy definition of the sensitivity and resistance of the microorganism.

Further, the invention enables obtaining a quantitative positive or negative control in a form which is suitable for application in specific cases, such as to be able to correlate the response of the kit to the actual concentration of the positive control, resulting in the advantage of avoiding the use of an excessive reference sample.

The application of a system pre-dosed with a predefined quantity of freeze-dried microorganisms in a format which is immediately adaptable to the application itself leads to a significant reduction in costs and times of the relative procedures.

Finally, the invention is simple and economic to use.