The coronavirus pandemic has caused adverse effects around the globe. The primary way to control it is by doing vigorous testing so that you isolate the people who have the virus, and prevent the disease from spreading. Pool testing for COVID-19 is an effective way of testing for the virus, and help to prevent it from spreading.
Ideally, pooled Covid-19 testing involves collecting different samples and placing them in a collective pool. Only one test will get done in the pool instead of doing a test for each sample. If the result of the pool is negative, then it implies that every sample placed in the pool is also negative from COVID-19. However, if the result of the pool comes back as positive, then it implies that there is a sample that is positive for COVID-19 in that pool. As such, the samples have to get tested again individually to determine the sample whose results are positive. Individuals who turn positive can quarantine themselves at their homes, and get virtual primary care while at home. But if their homes are not conducive for quarantine, they can go to government primary care facilities.
Pooling the samples together ensures that physicians do fewer tests. However, pool testing increases the chances of false negatives. The samples in the pool may get diluted. But there are always ways of mitigating this small risk, by doing multiple tests.
While pool testing can get used in a lot of places, it would work best in the areas we have outlined below.
• Regions Where Coronavirus is Not Prevalent
Generally, pool testing should be done in areas where there is a low prevalence of the virus. Those are areas where you only expect to find few positive cases, but many negative cases. It ensures that the pool testing is useful because nearly every pool is going to turn out negative, and you are only going to find minimal cases where you have to test again because of a positive result in a pool. Thus, there is no point in doing pool testing in a region where you know that there are a lot of coronavirus cases. It is because nearly every pool is going to test positive. Hence, you will have to test all the samples individually. This would not be efficient because it involves testing one sample after the other.
A large scale pool testing could be beneficial in saving time and resources. Moreover, it would also help in quickly identifying positive individuals, and to quarantine them immediately under a suitable primary care facility. They can also quarantine at their home under a suitable virtual primary care to prevent further spread of the disease into the community. Generally, a community that is recording their first coronavirus cases would be ideal for this method. The primary goal of this method of testing in such a community would be to trace positive people, that are showing no symptoms of the virus, and isolating them before they spread the disease further.
• Testing Neighborhoods
Pool testing is also ideal in testing members of a specific neighbourhood where there is a suspected case of coronavirus. For instance, samples from the neighbourhood will get collected, and they will get placed in pools according to families. If a pool of a particular family turns out positive, then the individual samples from each family member will also be tested to find out which person has contracted the virus.
• Business Organizations and Other Institutions
Business organizations, schools, and other institutions that want to re-open amid this global pandemic can also use pool testing to test their members. The samples can get collected in groups, and they can be tested in pools to know if the members are C0VID-19 free or not. Those whose results will turn out positive should not be allowed to resume. Instead, they should be in quarantine and receive medications until they are COVID-19 free, and they are fit to interact with other members of the institution.
Moreover, the tests should get repeated periodically to ensure that every person is still safe from the virus. Also, experts suggest that pool testing should be done fast enough in one day, and not weeks because waiting longer will allow an infected person to transfer the virus to other people.
How Many Samples Should get Placed in One pool?
According to a recent study done in Israel, it showed that one pool could accommodate up to 32 samples. It is the maximum number of samples that a pool accommodates without losing the accuracy of the test, according to the study. However, the number of samples should get determined by the prevalence of the disease in the area of testing. Thus, the higher the level of prevalence, the lower the number of samples in a pool.
How Can You Prevent False Negatives in a pool?
While pool testing has the possibility of displaying false negatives, there are ways in which the false negatives can get minimized. For instance, the pool can get tested up to three times for more accurate results. But the specimen collection, and also the tests have to be of good quality to avoid the problems of inaccurate results.
Additionally, there are other approaches which are more rigorous, and which would give back more accurate results. For instance, a more complicated pool testing which is a bit different from the regular pool testing called split-pool testing would be adequate. In split-pool testing, the pool gets tested twice, and if both results come out negative, everyone in the pool gets cleared. However, if either of the tests done comes back as positive, then you have to split the pool into two, then test both pools again twice. If the results of one of the two pools come back as negative, you can release the individuals of that pool. Ideally, you will have to repeat the process of halving the pools until you are down to individual tests, and you get the positive cases.
While split-pool testing is effective in minimizing the false negatives, it is also useful in reducing the number of tests that would have gotten done in the standard pool testing. Primarily, it is the most effective method of pool testing.
How Does Pool Testing Lead to Fewer Tests Compared to Other Testing Methods?
Generally, pool testing should get done in areas where the disease has not yet increased substantially. In these areas, pool testing would be the most effective test because you will be able to clear a lot of people with one test. For instance, if you have a group of about 200 people, you can break them into groups of 20, meaning its only 10 pools. If only 2 out of the 10 pools turns out to be positive, then you will only have to run a test for 40 people in the 2 pools to find out the individuals who have turned out to be positive. It means that in a group of 200 individuals, you have only done tests for 10 pools and 40 individuals which brings it to a total of 50 tests. Thus, pool testing is convenient.
The only challenge with pool testing is in areas where the disease has a high prevalence. In such areas, you will have to test pools of smaller numbers. Besides, most pools will return a positive result which means that you have to test all the individuals in the pool to find out which ones are positive. Pool testing for COVID-19 is an efficient way of doing extensive scale testing, while at the same time using limited resources, and saving time. As such, it would be beneficial for countries to adopt this method of testing for the disease. Our facility has elite professionals who are always ready to do testing for COVID-19. We offer excellent testing services, and we are always open for you at any time. Contact us today to get more information on pool testing, and also how it works.