Fauci: Discussions Underway On COVID “Pool Testing”

The Washington Post reports:

The Trump administration is weighing a new testing strategy as coronavirus cases mount: testing groups of people together. Anthony Fauci said  that health officials are having “intense discussions” about what’s known as “pool testing.”

The idea is that by testing samples from many people all together, officials could test more people with fewer resources. And those who are infected could be more quickly found and isolated.

It would represent a dramatic shift from how coronavirus testing is currently being carried out in the United States – but one that may be sorely needed as virus hot spots worsen and new ones appear.

STAT News reports:

It’s a simple construct: combine — or pool — samples from multiple people and test them as a group for the coronavirus. It’s a way to dramatically and efficiently increase volume, to churn through what you expect to be a lot of negative samples at a fast clip.

“Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day,” Deborah Birx, who is helping lead the White House’s coronavirus response, told an American Society for Microbiology virtual conference this week.

The New York Times reports:

If a certain pool comes back with a positive result, each patient who provided a sample can be tested individually. The strategy can be particularly effective when the prevalence of infection in a population is less than 30 percent, according to some reports.

Adm. Brett Giroir, deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, first mentioned the possibility at a briefing on Tuesday, saying the administration was considering pooling samples from as many as five to 10 people at once, which would dramatically increase the number of people that can be tested.