TestsVirologists Show that Sample Pooling Can Massively Increase Coronavirus Testing Capacity

Published 29 April 2020

A new procedure will help to meet the high demand for testing in mass coronavirus screening programs needed in the early identification and isolation of asymptomatic individuals. The pooling of samples before testing is a safe and well-established procedure in blood banking. The team from the Institute of Virology has adapted and tested this method for use in coronavirus diagnostics. Saarland University says that samples from several individuals are pooled and tested together in a single tube using sensitive molecular biological detection methods. Only if the pool result is positive do the samples need to be tested individually. When the infection rate is low and only a few people are infected, pool testing can significantly expand the testing capacity of the existing laboratory infrastructure. The team has been using the new procedure at Saarland University Hospital in Homburg since mid-March to protect vulnerable patients from infection by asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers. The success of the pool testing procedure has now led to its use in screening residents and staff at nursing and residential care homes in Saarland.