What is pooled testing? How could it help test more people faster?

A look at what pooled testing is.

DETROIT – Health experts have repeatedly said that that increasing testing is critical to containing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by identifying those infected more quickly.

They’re also calling for more surveillance testing -- to find people who are asymptomatic but are still able to spread the virus.

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It’s called pooled testing, or group testing, basically it uses one test to test multiple people. It’s been suggested as a way to screen dorms of college students, entire nursing homes, food processing plants and other groups more quickly.

Pooled testing takes samples from multiple people and mixes them together to be tested. For example, you might combine four samples and then test them with just one test.

READ: What Dr. Anthony Fauci said about a timeline for a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine

If the pooled sample is negative, then all four patients are considered negative. If the pooled sample comes back positive then each sample needs to be retested individually to find which person is positive.

This approach could be helpful in areas with a lower level of infection. The government has set a goal of conducting 40 to 50 million tests a month by the fall.

The FDA is working on validating pooled testing for COVID-19. Researchers in Germany have been using the technique since mid-March to screen patients and staff at nursing and residential care homes.

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About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.