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AU uses ‘pooling’ method to differentiate positive and negative COVID-19 samples

Augusta-Aiken WRDW-TV logo Augusta-Aiken WRDW-TV 8/8/2020 Celeste Springer
a person taking a selfie in a room: New method could make COVID-19 testing better © Provided by Augusta-Aiken WRDW-TV New method could make COVID-19 testing better

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Researchers at Augusta University have developed a plan that could save tens of millions of dollars, and also help save lives.

It’s called pooling -- where samples are combined and tested in batches instead of tested individually.

"If you're looking at it as a testing strategy, instead of 1,000 individual samples, we are testing 150 samples, so we are having a savings of 85 percent cost."

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The concept isn’t anything new, Dr. Ravindra Kolhe with Augusta University says their research took the concept and turned it into real COVID-19 results.

“We have shown very scientifically a clinical validation on real samples,” Kolhe said. “This is not a mathematical modeling or hypothesis-driven data, this is real data.”

Pooling tests really only works when the incidence of COVID-19 is low.

Here's a breakdown: when you have both positive and negative samples of the virus, you randomly divide them into groups an observe the results.

Some pools will have all negatives samples in it, and they would not require any other testing and the lab can move on.

Pools that do have positive samples would then have to be tested individually.

With state and national testing backlogs, experts say this could be the long-term answer.

“When we want to get a snapshot of SARS COV-2 in a particular region, I think pooling is definitely going to dominate the type of testing that we’re doing,” Kolhe said.

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