Health Team

Pool testing could be the answer to getting more COVID-19 case results

Posted July 1, 2020 10:33 p.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2020 1:07 a.m. EDT

— As North Carolina and other states work to safely reopen, it will require millions more coronavirus tests per day. One idea on the table is something called pool testing.

Two infectious disease experts told WRAL News they both admit pool testing has some unique benefits and some drawbacks. It's a new way to dramatically expand testing and possibly work to control the spread. Instead of testing one person, you can test a group to see if someone in that group has the virus.

“If that test is negative, you know those ten people are all negative," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview on Capitol Hill. "Instead of utilizing ten tests, you utilize one test.”

Is pool testing accurate? Dr. David Ingram, a retired infectious disease specialist, is uncertain.

"It’s going to be less accurate because you have to dilute the samples when you pull them together to pull the samples," Ingram said.

As the number of coronavirus cases continue to spike, testing groups sounds appealing. But it may come at a cost, according to Dr. Daniel Westreich at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"The one downside, if you take four negatives and one positive, you put them in a pool, you are diluting the positive signal, you will lose your sensitivity," Westreich said.

With more and more calls for testing, some wonder if pool testing is the answer.

“I think it is part of the answer," Westreich said. "We simply need more tests. We can test a lot more people if we start pooling.”

WRAL checked to see whether any hospitals in the Triangle are implementing pool testing. WakeMed officials said they is evaluating pool testing, but it is not something the hospital is ready to implement at this point. There was no response from the area's other hospitals Wednesday night.

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