For scientists and health care professionals working with blood and tissue products, 1988 may well go down in history as the “Year of the Glove,” as the demand for rubber gloves soars.

“We’ve seen a doubling of demand since the last quarter of 1987,” says Les Jacobson, of Baxter International Inc., a large medical glove manufacturer based in Chicago, Ill. “Glove manufacturers are switching their product mix— robbing Peter to pay Paul—to ease the shortage.”

Ansell Inc., another major glove maker, based in Dothan, Ala., increased its glove production to 2.5 billion this year—twice last year’s output. Many glove makers have added extra shifts, or slowed down on other product lines in order to increase glove production. And in rubber-producing regions in the Far East, a few startup companies are now cashing in on U.S. demand.

The rush to glove-up started last year after the Centers for Disease Control published...

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