Mar 11, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by lab materials shortage

A medical assistant demonstrating a COVID-19 test. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Diagnostic testing for the coronavirus is threatened yet again, this time by a shortage of critical lab materials, Politico reports.

Why it matters: The testing capabilities in the U.S. are still grossly behind those of other countries. This latest problem could set us even further back, allowing the coronavirus to continue to spread undetected through communities.

The state of play: U.S. labs may not have enough of the supplies used to extract generic material from any virus in a patient's sample, which is a key part of the test.

  • Qiagen, a supplier of these "RNA extraction" kits, confirmed to Politico that the product is backordered.

What's next: CDC director Robert Redfield told Politico that he didn't know how the agency would deal with a shortage of the kits.

  • He added that he is hopeful "there will be mechanisms between multiple manufacturers to correct" it.

Go deeper: Lab for coronavirus test kits may have been contaminated

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U.S. health official expects nearly 1M coronavirus tests this week

Vice President Mike Pence (C) speaks at the White House Monday, flanked by (L to R) senior health officials Robert Redfield, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Debbie Birx, Seema Verma, Alex Azar and Stephen Hahn. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn told a news conference Monday that health officials should be able to perform nearly 1 million tests for the novel coronavirus by the end of the week.

Why it matters: Officials in the U.S. and around the world are scrambling to combat a rise in cases of COVID-19.

Go deeperArrowMar 3, 2020 - Health

Thermo Fisher to buy Qiagen for $10.1 billion

Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Thermo Fisher is acquiring Qiagen, a company that makes lab equipment and diagnostic tests, for $10.1 billion plus the assumption of $1.4 billion of debt.

Why it matters: This is the largest health care transaction so far in 2020. It's also especially relevant because Qiagen makes a testing kit that detects the new coronavirus strain.

Cities face severe supply shortages amid coronavirus outbreak

Nurses in masks, goggles, gloves, and protective gowns stand outside a yellow tent as they wait for their next patient in Bern Township, Penn., where they are conducting drive through coronavirus testing. Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images.

First responders and health care workers are dealing with massive shortages of critical supplies such as face masks, personal protective equipment, ventilators and test kits, according to a survey of 213 cities from 41 states and Puerto Rico.

Why it matters: The shortages of critical supplies have reached "crisis proportions" and are putting at risk the lives of residents and front-line medical workers across the country, per the survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Go deeperArrow16 hours ago - Health