If you work in a lab or purchase on behalf of one I’m sure you will have experienced shortages or delays on one or many of the products you buy. The huge increase in global demand due to COVID-19 testing has put a strain on everything from PPE to robotic tips and seemingly everything in between.
The latest product to cause a scramble for stock is sterile filter tips. Seen as a luxury in some academic labs and startups but taken for granted by many as a routinely used product in abundant supply.
At some point, everyone has been sent a sample of a new range to try which has a slight edge or benefit over their current brand but due to the seemingly endless supply, it was always difficult to justify a change…not anymore!
The UK doesn’t have any large pipette tip manufacturers and we are therefore at the mercy of American, German, Indian and Chinese manufacturers who, justifyably, are supplying stock to domestic laboratories engaged in COVID work. Some stock is finding it’s way to UK shores but again, due to a vast increase in the viral work being done in the UK, the demand is far outstripping supply.
So when will this get better? This is very difficult to say, most countries continue to ramp up COVID testing and, as lockdown measures ease in some parts of the world, more laboratories working on other pathogens and research topics return adding to the already inflated demand. We engage with a number of the worlds largest suppliers and the dates we are being given for filter tips in any kind of quantity are all quarter one 2021 or beyond!
Is there a temporary solution to see us through until then? Possibly yes, depending on how flexible your protocols are and how desperate we get! There is an abundance of non-filter tips in the UK both pre and non sterilised. Appleton Woods for example have huge stocks of racked and eco-friendly tips ready to ship and some testing labs have taken the decision to get ahead of the next shortage and do things differently!
So what would be the impact of changing and how can this be limited? Filtered pipette tips serve a double purpose; they protect the pipette from aerosols created when liquids are aspirated into the pipette tip and also protect the samples from aerosols in the pipette that were generated from prior pipetting operations. Good technique can alleviate most of this, indeed before filter tips were introduced this was the only way!
One option to help with the switch to non-sterile pipette tips would be to run them through an autoclave. We supply a range of smaller, portable Prestige autoclaves, ideal for sterilising up to three racks of tips at a time.
We can also supply larger Astell autoclaves, with a benchtop range of 33L – 63L, these would be perfect for labs with larger uses of tips, the smallest size can easily hold 12 racks at a time. With a wide variety of options and accessories available, we can help find the best autoclave to suit your requirements.
We can go one step further however by ensuring the pipettors we use are also decontaminated periodically. Appleton Woods have a convenient solution, with our brand new appZAP Pipette Carousel, you can UV sterilise up to six pipettors at the push of a button – after a certain work period or during a tea break (if you are fortunate to get one at the moment!). UV sterilisers are fast, affordable and better for the environment as they don’t use as much energy or any water in their cycles.
Introducing the appZAP into your protocol as a periodic pipette sterilisation step coupled with the use of sterile, DNAase, RNAase and Pyrogen free tips whilst working in a class II hood vastly reduces the chances of contamination of your sample and yourself! This could potentially break our reliance on filter tips and enable the crucial work the scientific community do to continue!