NEWBORN SCREENING & GENETICS
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 .
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