The Case for Pooled SARS-CoV-2 Testing

New data suggests informed, practical pooled testing could improve both public health response and clinical assessment of the pandemic.

A new study from the Duke University School of Medicine showed pooled testing, rather than individual testing, can extend SARS-CoV-2 test supplies and increase the number of patients tested and cases detected.

Such benefits could indicate a better utility of such assays for population screening and resource-constrained settings, according to the teams findings published in JAMA Network Open.

Though such measures—as observed by Christopher Polage, MD, of the Duke Health System Clinical Laboratories, and colleagues—may mean a convoluted workflow, lower sensitivity in some test cases, and the potential need for repeat tests in the event of positive pools, the team suggested sequential two-stage pooling could at least reduce the burden of retesting from positive large pools.

The team’s evidenced findings comparing the methods could even offer policy makers informed guidance for regional and national decision-making on how the pandemic is better tested and monitored in 2021.

In an interview with Contagion, Polage discussed discussed the team’s interest in informing both public health and clinical institutions which could possibly benefit from pooled testing, as well as the unfortunately ill-established models of theoretical-based pooled testing currently underway.

“We’ve seen a few publications and commentaries that have suggested the possible value and benefit of pooled testing, but we haven’t actually seen a lot of pooled testing use in actual practices, universities and surveillance programs,” Polage explained.