Testing supply shortages may cause jump in STIs, experts warn

With so many testing supplies dedicated to COVID-19, U.S. labs are now facing a shortage of supplies needed to test for sexually transmitted infections and other common diseases like strep throat and pneumonia, NBC News reports. 

Public health experts said inadequate testing could lead to skyrocketing infection rates, since many undiagnosed people may unknowingly spread STIs. 

UNC Medical Center's clinical microbiology lab in Chapel Hill, N.C., is currently unable to process chlamydia and gonorrhea tests since the needed reagents are on back order for three weeks, the lab's director Melissa Miller, PhD, told NBC. 

"It's hard for our providers to keep track of what we're able to do on any given day," said Dr. Miller. "Providers used to be able to ask for every kind of test in our lab and now they can't. It's affecting their ability to practice medicine quite honestly."  

The American Society of Microbiology surveyed 131 clinical labs nationwide the week of Nov. 20 and found 70 percent reported a shortage of supplies needed for STI tests. About 39 percent of respondents said they were short on supplies needed for routine bacteria tests that identify strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis and urinary tract infections. 

In September, the CDC advised physicians in areas facing supply shortages to ration chlamydia and gonorrhea tests to those at high risk. 

Planned Parenthood physicians told NBC that some of their clinics are now making STI diagnoses empirically. 

"I've never been able to not order a test," said Krishna Upadhya, MD, vice president of quality care and health equity at Planned Parenthood. "It's very difficult as a healthcare provider to not have the tool you need to take the best care of your patients." 

More articles on public health:
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state: Dec. 7
5 states with most flu activity, per CDC's Fluview report
'A physician's nightmare': New Mexico hospitals likely to get OK to ration care


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