How COVID Test Supply Shortages Could Cause a ‘Public Health Crisis' of Undiagnosed STIs

Labs around the country are scrambling for supplies used to test for sexually transmitted infections and common diseases like strep throat and pneumonia

Eva Marie Uzcategui | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Scientist Melissa Miller never knows what to expect at her lab from week to week. Since last spring, there’s been a constant shortage of testing supplies. Sometimes it’s the reagents needed to run tests, and other times it’s as simple as the plastic tips used on the pipettes, NBC News reports.

“The shortages still exist,” said Miller, director of UNC Medical Center’s clinical microbiology lab. “Lab directors have been screaming about this for months.”

Labs across the country have been facing dire shortages of supplies as the number of COVID-19 tests being processed has skyrocketed. But with so many supplies directed toward COVID-19 testing, it's increasingly becoming more difficult for patients to get an accurate diagnosis for sexually transmitted infections, common but serious illnesses like pneumonia and other potentially life-threatening infections.

A November survey by the American Society for Microbiology of 134 labs around the country found that more than half of them were experiencing shortages in the supplies used to test for bacteria that cause common diseases like strep throat and pneumonia. More than 65 percent of labs reported shortages for testing for STIs.

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