Labs across the country are facing backlogs in coronavirus testing thanks in part to a shortage of tiny pieces of tapered plastic.

Researchers need these little disposables, called pipette tips, to quickly and precisely move liquid between vials as they process the tests.

As the number of known coronavirus cases in the United States passes 4 million, these new shortages of pipette tips and other lab supplies are once again stymieing efforts to track and curb the spread of disease. Some people are waiting days or even weeks for results, and labs are vying for crucial materials.

“That’s the crazy part,” said Dr. Alexander McAdam, director of the infectious diseases diagnostic laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital, one of many institutions seeking the prized pipette tips. “Whenever there’s a shortage, it’s lab versus lab, city versus city, state versus state, competing for supplies.”

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