Lab Matters Fall Winter 2021 | Page 26


Newborn Screening Programs Aim to Reduce Use of Paper and Plastics During the Pandemic and Beyond

By Guisou Zarbalian , manager , Newborn Screening and Genetics and OluwaFunke Akinsola , senior specialist , Newborn Screening and Genetics
Newborn screening ( NBS ) programs play a critical role in safeguarding the health of our nation ’ s most vulnerable population through timely , accurate screening for genetic and metabolic conditions . Despite the essential role that NBS programs play in public health , it has been challenging for programs to maintain a consistent supply of laboratory consumables due to strain on the market during the COVID-19 pandemic . To address pipette tip shortages , APHL worked closely with federal and corporate partners to request that the US Department of Health and Human Services officially grant prioritized distribution to NBS programs .
Washing and Reusing Pipette Tips
When the supply was still unable to meet demand , some NBS programs implemented washing protocols to reuse pipette tips . At the beginning of 2021 , the Maryland NBS program projected that their supply of pipette tips would be consumed in three months . Facing this critical supply shortage required creative approaches to ensure that screening would continue . The program was in the process of starting method validation for new instruments when they decided to incorporate tip washing protocols after initial feasibility studies . To protect against potential cross-contamination , the tips were rinsed with 10 percent bleach and deionized water and evaluated via weekly ongoing monitoring . Maryland successfully validated this procedure as no DNA amplification was detected in their cross-contamination study and overall analytical validation . Maryland was at risk of having to cease NBS testing due to their short supply of pipette tips on April 1 , 2021 , but their protocols to wash and reuse their pipette tips have extended their existing supply to last approximately one more year . This solution ensured that NBS services could continue , in addition to creating a positive environmental impact by reducing the use of plastics .
Electronic Reporting
Aside from conserving and reusing pipette tips , other states have moved away from sending traditional paper reports for newborn screening results , implementing electronic reporting ( e-reporting ) systems in their place . The New Jersey NBS program is one state that has implemented an online portal system for NBS results . Implementation of an e-reporting system involves many data confidentiality and security measures to keep sensitive health information secure , but presents several advantages over paper reporting including faster delivery of results and yielding better patient care . Although the goal in New Jersey is to have all hospitals and primary care providers use and access results via the portal , not all hospitals have access or have gained sufficient familiarity with the system to stop using paper reports entirely . For this reason , paper reports are still sent and will remain in use until all hospitals have access to the system .
While these are just two examples of NBS programs implementing strategies to maintain and improve NBS operations while reducing their environmental footprint , other states have discussed their pipette washing methods and electronic reporting systems . APHL ’ s Newborn Screening Technical Assistance and Evaluation Program ( NewSTEPs ) hosted a “ hot topic ” webinar on Cleaning Methods for Pipette Tips and also provides access to e-reporting information through the Guide to Newborn Screening Results Portals . APHL applauds these programs as well as the larger NBS community for working to ensure that babies receive timely newborn screening during the COVID-19 pandemic . n 24 LAB MATTERS Fall / Winter 2021
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