Just something I happened to run across:
A method of testing for the novel coronavirus refined in Israeli labs could dramatically increase the speed at which tests for the virus can be performed. If the technique known as pooling works on a larger scale it would open up the potential for mass testing. Combined with other sound policies, mass testing could efficiently isolate and treat infected individuals, relieving some of the burden on overwhelmed hospitals by keeping healthy people out while allowing limited medical supplies to go to those who need them most.
Drawing on experience with a “pooling” technique used in Africa to test blood for HIV, microbiologists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology collaborating with experts at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, adapted the method to test for the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. Most testing around the world is currently being conducted one person at a time, a process that is both time consuming and places a heavy tax on critical protective gear that hospital workers wear while administering the tests. The Israeli pooling protocol makes it possible to test up to 64 people at the same time.
“Only in those rare cases in which the joint sample is found to be positive will we have to test each sample individually,” said Dr. Yuval Gefen, director of Rambam’s clinical microbiology laboratory.
Currently the protocol is designed as a molecular test to determine whether or not an individual has been infected with coronavirus, but according to a researcher at Technion’s Biology Faculty, it might also be possible to apply the protocol to blood testing. Blood tests, also known as serological tests, are used to detect antibodies produced by the immune system that could be the key to unlocking how certain people develop an immunity to COVID-19. The Israeli pooling test methodology can theoretically be applied to serological tests, the researcher at Technion said, but requires calibration and careful testing to see if it works.