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Researchers Develop Cheaper, Rapid, and Accurate Pooling Strategy for RT-PCR-Based Detection of SARS-CoV-2

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 Aug 2020
A team of researchers have developed a cheaper, rapid, and accurate pooling strategy for the RT-PCR-based detection of SARS-CoV-2 in clinical samples that could have a significant impact on large-scale population screening in the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University (Augusta, GA, USA) and PerkinElmer Genomics (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) have proposed a mass population screening approach based on sample pooling strategy for rapid and wide-scale population screening that can be adopted by laboratories currently using RT-PCR–based methods to test for SARS-CoV-2. The researchers estimate that the strategy could lead to an approximately 5- to 10-fold reduction in the cost of testing of SARS-CoV-2. The global impact of these enormous savings has the potential to enhance laboratory operations throughout the pandemic and can be deployed to laboratories that are facing dire constraints in supplies.

Image: Researchers Develop Cheaper, Rapid, and Accurate Pooling Strategy for RT-PCR-Based Detection of SARS-CoV-2 (Photo courtesy of Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University)
Image: Researchers Develop Cheaper, Rapid, and Accurate Pooling Strategy for RT-PCR-Based Detection of SARS-CoV-2 (Photo courtesy of Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University)

The researchers tested the strategy by analyzing approximately 1,000 samples using their pooled sampling approach and achieved 91.6% PPA (positive percent agreement) and 100% NPA (negative percent agreement) as compared to the routine screening approach. The study demonstrates the clinical utility and accuracy of sample pooling strategy and presents a carefully planned layout for mass population testing that can be executed by laboratories using RT-PCR–based methods for detecting SARS-CoV-2. The proposed methodology has the potential to allow institutions to ramp up their testing needs in a cost-efficient manner with minimal turnaround times. This testing allows for the timely isolation and treatment of COVID-19–positive patients, specifically in populations with a lower prevalence of the disease, for example, screening large numbers of students returning to college campuses.

“In terms of cost analysis, one million individuals can be tested for around USD 9.1 million with the proposed mass population screening approach compared to approximately USD 58 million with current routine diagnostic methods. These cost projections highlight significant savings of healthcare dollars that could be achieved in both high- and low/middle-income countries,” said Amyn Rojiani, MD, PhD, Chair of the MCG Department of Pathology.

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