Paper Forms Pose Coronavirus Risk for Lab Staff

By Reuters Staff

November 17, 2020

(Reuters) - When laboratory personnel are processing COVID-19 tests, there is a small risk that the paper forms accompanying the specimens can be contaminated with the new coronavirus, a new report cautions.

Researchers at the Birmingham Public Health Laboratory in the UK analyzed randomly selected paper forms and specimen packaging during a period when the team was processing about 700 COVID-19 tests daily.

Of the 37 items they tested, one piece of paperwork carried genetic material from the coronavirus. The form had come from a low-risk hospital ward, and the specimen from the patient was negative for the virus, "indicating contamination may be occurring as a result of environmental or healthcare worker contamination," the researchers wrote in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

The authors call for "stringent laboratory practices" - hand hygiene, appropriate personal protective equipment - and "use of electronic test requesting where possible."

SOURCE: Journal of Hospital Infection, online November 11, 2020.