A looming shortage in lab materials is threatening to delay coronavirus test results and cause officials to undercount the number of Americans with the virus.
The slow pace of coronavirus testing has created a major gap in the U.S. public health response. The latest problem involves an inability to prepare samples for testing, creating uncertainties in how long it will take to get results.
The growing scarcity of these “RNA extraction” kits is the latest trouble for U.S. labs, which have struggled to implement widespread coronavirus testing in the seven weeks since the country diagnosed its first case. Epidemiologists and public health officials say that the delayed rollout, caused in part by a botched CDC test, has masked the scope of the U.S. outbreak and hobbled efforts to limit it.
If enough processing kits aren’t available, the risk that testing will be disrupted is “huge,” said Michael Mina, associate medical director of molecular diagnostics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“RNA extraction is the first step in being able to perform” a coronavirus test, he said. “If we cannot perform this step, the [coronavirus] test cannot be performed.”
Qiagen, a major supplier of the kits, confirmed that its product is backordered due to “the extraordinary pace” at which the world has increased coronavirus testing over the last few weeks.
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It’s almost as if having a malignant narcissist as chief executive is a bad idea…