In an effort to ease the diagnostic logjam the United States is facing with the coronavirus surging in various parts of the country, the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted an emergency use authorization for pooled COVID-19 testing.
Quest Diagnostics will now be able to group up to four samples together and will only test them individually if the batch comes back positive. This approach — which has been used in Germany, China, Israel, and South Africa, among other countries — can help save valuable time and resources during the pandemic.
Sample pooling allows labs to combine & test samples in a batch. Ultimately, pooling is expected to require fewer tests, meaning fewer test supplies are used & more tests can be run at the same time so patients can get results faster in most cases.
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) July 18, 2020
Politico notes, however, that this strategy applies to places where prevalence of the virus is low, and the chances of having a batch where nothing is detected are higher. Places experiencing more severe outbreaks, on the other hand, are still better off with individual testing.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement that "sample pooling becomes especially important as infection rates decline and we begin testing larger portions of the population," while the Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir said it could help increase the U.S.'s testing capacity to 100 million per month by September. Read more at Politico.
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