Pooled testing shown to reduce labour, increase capacity

Alberta Health Services is looking to introduce a widespread pooling strategy for COVID-19 testing, to save resources and increase turnaround time.
By: Heather Marie Connors
September 11, 2020
Photo by Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

The AHS and Alberta Precision Labratories have been conducting a pooled testing pilot program out of the Edmonton lab since mid-August. The process involves combining four samples into one, and is geared towards asymptomatic COVID-19 testing. If widely introduced, pooled testing could result in a significant increase in capacity and a faster turnaround time for results, because labs can process higher volumes of negative samples. In the event a pool tests positive, material from the original four samples is retested individually.

Pooled testing also reduces the amount of necessary labour and supplies. The process is automated as much as possible, and uses less reagent, which can help maintain supplies for the long term.

"We're doing as little manual labour, as little kind of human interaction, as possible," medical microbiologist Nathan Zelyas told CBC. "So that we don't run into these errors that are more likely to occur as a result of human error."

If the pilot project is successful, Alberta Health Services plans to expand the volume of pooled tests in the coming weeks.

Source: CBC Edmonton


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