While the world dealt with a pandemic for the past year, research laboratories across the world are dealing with their own crisis, one that could wipe out years of research.
The increased demand from diagnostic laboratories for even the most basic laboratory consumable for COVID-19 PCR diagnosis has literally incapacitated normal research at universities and even private laboratories.
ZERO SUPPLY OF LAB ESSENTIALS
Researchers and laboratory procurement managers are scrambling to fulfill orders for PCR reagents, test-tubes, pippets, PPE kits, basic gloves, PCR plates, plastic beakers, centrifuge tubes, clip tips, glycine, oxygen, cuvettes for culture measurement, LB, Mueller Hinton (MH) media, etc. These reagents and consumables are being used by diagnostic laboratories for qPCR tests for COVID-19 diagnosis. Manufacturers are giving preference to diagnostic laboratories and governments to help combat the pandemic.
While many reagents and consumables are out of stock a lot of researchers are paying more than triple the price for reagents such as LCMS grade solvents, chromogenic agar plates, fungal culture media, chocolate agar, viral transport media, vaginal panels, selective agar for growing streptococci, tryptic soy broth, buffered charcoal yeast extract agar, sabouraud dextrose agar, calcofluor white stain, BD Max Panels and other consumables. The increase in cost is due to suppliers and manufacturers redistributing resources and personnel to concentrate on the production of COVID-19 related supplies. The remaining suppliers have increased prices on account of reduced supply and lack of demand from laboratories, a convenient way to recoup lost revenue. At the beginning of the lockdown, when many universities and research laboratories were forced to close or cutback their research, the demand for plated media fell off significantly, resulting in expired inventory which had to be destroyed.
GLOBAL SHIPPING ISSUES
Global shipping container issues have a small role to play in lab shortage in USA, while the BREXIT transportation hurdles are affecting supplies in UK and Europe. A few countries such as India have reduced imports from China due to border issues.
While the early lockdown affected most research because of closure of laboratories, the current supply shortage could have long term effects in terms of research publications, new grant applications and doctorate fulfillment among other things. In many cases the shortage is affecting COVID-19 research itself.
The global shortage in many instances has led to researchers waiting for more than 6 months without a respite in sight. Many researchers have had to resort to changing brands, supplier and in a few cases protocols.
DIAGNOSTIC LABS SHORTAGES
THings are not peach on the COVID-19 diagnosing front. Many Diagnostic laboratories still do not have reliable access to reagents, test kits, and PCR machines, with even normally well-equipped, high-complexity labs still unable to get the kits they need to run SARS-CoV-2 assays. What’s worse is that the shortages are even affecting common non-COVID-19 disease diagnosis for STD’s, cystic fibrosis and UTI’s.
When Are Things Getting Back to Normal?
Supplies of some lab consumables such as gloves, PPE kits and tubes are getting back to normal already. However supplies of other consumables and goods is looking grim for the next four months. Manufacturers are hesitant to ramp up production, predicting a drastic fall once the pandemic is over, that could hit the new production capacities.