Supply shortages of lab supplies continue even nearly a year after the pandemic first began. US labs still face a lack of supplies and uncertainty in the supply chain, which is hindering day-to-day lab operations, as well as the ability to reach full testing capacity. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) partnered with the Association of Supply Chain Management (ASCM) to collect testing supply status for both Covid-19 tests, as well as other microbiological tests. By identifying these supply chain issues, the goal is to ultimately alleviate them.
Rather than specialised kits and reagents, major suppliers are running out of the essential basics that are required for running lab tests such as specimen tubes, 96-well plates, and DNA extraction reagents. Labs have taken several steps to compensate for the decreased testing capacity, including outsourcing some testing, shifting back to older technologies, and in the most extreme cases, removing the test from their menus entirely.
On 19 January, the ASM surveyed Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified labs, which reported an average of 40% testing capacity for Covid-19. Supply shortages are also impacting non-Covid-19 lab testing. While the Covid-19 testing supply chain has dominated most discussions of laboratory shortages, and rightly so, facilities also struggle to secure supplies for more routine testing. Although the majority of efforts need to be directed towards combatting the pandemic, the worry is that other public health issues will begin to rise as routine testing that is normally done is not being performed due to supply shortages.