Many types of microbial analysis must be done almost immediately. If not, the microbes may continue to grow or die, changing their total numbers and also the relative ratio of various species. Refrigeration will help in many cases, but storage times are still typically limited to only a few hours. This means, among other things, that composite samples

(samples made by mixing several individual, or grab, samples) taken over a 24-hour period to try to determine average conditions are not acceptable for many microbial tests. On the other hand, some methods (e.g., some DNA analyses) allow rapid freezing or other preservation techniques for long-term storage.

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