Fluorobot History


The management of ASK (who were the founders of ConsultASK in 1999) were approached by the Semmelweiss University of Medicine Department of Respiratory Medicine in 1995 ( Dr. Ákos Somoskövi, Prof. Magyar) to develop an automated robot microscope with imaging for detection of AFB in fluorescent stained sputum smears, based on the reputation obtained in robotic light microscopy with successful projects such as the urine sediment analyzer, Seditron.

A prototype was developed in 1996, and a clinical study at the University Laboratory was conducted with 132 + 107 smears, parallelly tested with Ziehl-Neelsen staining and manual microscopy.

Smears of specimens and liquid media stained by the ZN method were examined at 1000_immersion magnification, three sweeps being made along the longest dimension.

A negative result was reported after the examination of 200 immersion view-fields

A computer automated fluorescence microscope was constructed for detection of the presence of AFB in auramine-O stained smears. Auramine-O stained smears of specimens and broths were examined with the automated microscope.

All auramine-O stained AFB-positive smears were restained by the ZN method to determine the accuracy of the examination.

The Results

A total of 132 sputum smears and 74 liquid media smears were examined in parallel by manual and automated microscopy. Conventional microscopy detected 53 positive and 79 negative smears of sputum, while automated microscopy detected 55 positive and 77 negative smears of sputum. Fluorescent smear positivity could be confirmed by ZN restaining and Bactec and LJ culture in all samples. Results of sputum smears are listed in the Table. Of the 74 smears of liquid media, 50 were found positive by both the automated and the manual version. The positivity of these smears was confirmed by LJ subculture. In the remaining 24 smears, automated microscopy did not detect any AFB, while the ZN smears revealed non-mycobacterial contamination.


Automated microscope positive

Automated microscope negative


ZN positive




ZN negative








The results were convincing and were presented at several meetings and introduced to WHO

  • ICEPT 97 International Congress on The Evolution and Palaeoepidemiology of Tuberculosis, 1997 Szeged, Hungary
  • Poster at Conference on Global Lung Health and the Annual Meeting of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, October 1997, Paris
  • Results were published in Int. J. Tuberc Lung Dis, 1999 by the team