Pooled Testing Okayed in U.S. as Way of Boosting Covid Detection

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized so-called “pool testing” for Covid-19, a move aimed at broadening checks for the coronavirus and using fewer testing resources.

Quest Diagnostics Inc. will be able to test samples containing as many as four individual swab specimens, the agency said on Saturday in an emergency-use authorization.

The samples collected are then tested in a pool or “batch” using one Covid-19 test, rather than running each individual sample through its own test. If the pool is positive it means that one or more of the individuals tested may be infected, so each of the samples in that pool is then tested again, individually.

The authorization “is an important step forward in getting more Covid-19 tests to more Americans more quickly while preserving testing supplies,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

“Sample pooling becomes especially important as infection rates decline and we begin testing larger portions of the population,” Hahn said.

Chinese officials used pool testing to quickly test vast numbers of people in Beijing and Wuhan earlier this year.

White House coronavirus task force members Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have both spoken in favor of pool testing as a way to ramp up the number of tests that can be performed.

“Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day,” Birx told an American Society for Microbiology virtual conference in June, according to the health news site Stat.

Quest’s test was originally authorized in March for use with individual samples and remains authorized for that purpose, the FDA said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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