Clinical and molecular practice of European thoracic pathology laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic. The past and the near future
BACKGROUND: This study evaluated the consequences in Europe of the COVID-19 outbreak on pathology laboratories orientated toward the diagnosis of thoracic diseases. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A survey was sent to 71 pathology laboratories from 21 European countries. The questionnaire requested information concerning the organization of biosafety, the clinical and molecular pathology, the biobanking, the workload, the associated research into COVID-19, and the organization of education and training during the COVID-19 crisis, from 15 March to 31 May 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. RESULTS: Questionnaires were returned from 53/71 (75%) laboratories from 18 European countries. The biosafety procedures were heterogeneous. The workload in clinical and molecular pathology decreased dramatically by 31% (range, 3%-55%) and 26% (range, 7%-62%), respectively. According to the professional category, between 28% and 41% of the staff members were not present in the laboratories but did teleworking. A total of 70% of the laboratories developed virtual meetings for the training of residents and junior pathologists. During the period of study, none of the staff members with confirmed COVID-19 became infected as a result of handling samples. CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on most of the European pathology laboratories included in this study. Urgent implementation of several changes to the organization of most of these laboratories, notably to better harmonize biosafety procedures, was noted at the onset of the pandemic and maintained in the event of a new wave of infection occurring in Europe.