Surge in COVID-19 testing demand spurs labs to ration other tests

A surge in demand for COVID-19 testing has drained supplies needed for other types of testing, such as for strep throat, fungal infections and sexually transmitted diseases, and some labs have had to ration testing, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

A shortage of swabs, chemicals and other equipment needed to conduct and process tests has forced some labs to limit how many samples they can process and what diseases they can test for. About 30 percent of labs surveyed the week of Oct. 26 by the American Society for Microbiology and the Association of Supply Chain Management reported shortages of supplies needed to detect strep throat, bronchitis and urinary tract infections, the Journal reported. Half of the 127 labs said they were short on supplies to test for infections ranging from superficial skin conditions to serious lung and blood diseases. 

"We make the best of what we can, but the bottom line is, we still can’t get enough reagents. We still can’t get enough consumables," Patrick Godbey, MD, president of the College of American Pathologists, told the Journal

Dr. Godbey and other experts expect shortages to worsen with an increase in flu testing and COVID-19 cases spiking across the country. 

The University of North Carolina Medical Center has faced shortages of supplies to test MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes staph infections, Melissa Miller, PhD, director of microbiology laboratories at the Chapel Hill-based medical center told the Journal

The most serious shortages have been for supplies needed to detect chlamydia and gonorrhea, diseases which can harm reproductive health. About 43 percent of the labs surveyed reported shortages for those tests and tests for other sexually transmitted diseases, the Journal reported. 

Due to shortages, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic is no longer offering gonorrhea and chlamydia testing to every patient, its CMO Katherine Farris, MD, told the Journal

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