The government is expected to test combined samples from multiple people of a local cluster at a higher risk of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) simultaneously.
The method is called “pool testing” or “sample pooling,” which can be useful to prevent infection in high-risk groups, including those in nursing homes with no COVID-19 symptoms.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) and the Korean Society for Laboratory Medicine (KSLM) said Thursday they completed a pool testing protocol, mixing several samples into one and re-testing individual samples if the combined sample comes out positive.
The KCDC and three medical institutions under the KSLM collaborated to design the protocol to be used in the Korean-specific testing environment. The protocol underwent 650 times of testing, the authorities said.
Under the pool testing protocol, mixing 10 specimens could still maintain over 96 percent of the sensitivity of testing, compared to individual testing, they added.
Other countries are also actively studying pool testing for quick and extensive tests. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) introduced sample pooling as an efficient method to detect community transmission amid limited resources.
“A pool testing will be mainly used for COVID-19 monitoring in high-risk groups without symptoms, not for COVID-19 confirmation. So, there is no need to worry about the inaccuracy of patient care,” said KCDC Director Jeong Eun-kyeong.
“Identifying a patient in hidden communities will contribute to the prevention of the disease,” she added.
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