Multiple health experts are discussing the possibility of "pool testing" — a method of coronavirus testing that mixes several samples together into a "batch," or pool.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the new approach could drastically expand the nation's knowledge of how and where the virus is spreading,
"If you look around the globe, the way people are doing a million tests or 10 million tests is they're doing pooling," Birx said during an online conference of the American Society for Microbiology. "Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day by those poolings."
Birx added that there could be opportunities to do five-people pools or greater, which would allow for people to return to schools sand workplaces with the ability to test on a frequent basis.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Friday that the White House coronavirus task force is “seriously considering” pool testing for Covid-19.
“Something’s not working,” Fauci said of the nation's current approach in an interview with The Washington Post “I mean, you can do all the diagramming you want, but something is not working.”
Here's how Pooling works: “Pooling refers to a testing technique in which allows a lab to mix several samples together in a 'batch' or pooled sample and then test the pooled sample with a diagnostic test. For example, four samples may be tested together, using only the resources needed for a single test," Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the US Food and Drug Administration, said in a written statement last week.
"If the pooled sample is negative, it can be deduced that all patients were negative. If the pooled sample comes back positive, then each sample needs to be tested individually to find out which was positive," Shuren said. "Because samples are pooled together, ultimately fewer tests are run overall, meaning fewer testing supplies are used, and results can be returned to patients more quickly in most cases."