KP unveils novel ‘pool testing’ for Coronavirus

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: In a first, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will conduct pool testing for Covid-19, which according to health and finance minister Taimur Khan Jhagra has increased the province’s capacity by three to five times.
Jhagra said on Friday that the Covid-19 testing laboratory at Khyber Medical University (KMU) is now authorised to conduct pool testing. “After successfully conducting 27 trials on pool testing, with 100pc congruence, the flagship KP coronavirus testing lab at KMU is now mandated to do pool tests suited for large groups with low prevalence rates; theoretically increasing capacity to test by 3-5x,” he said via a tweet.
Giving a breakdown of the total number of tests conducted in the province so far, he said: “KP conducted 1,146 tests, its highest yet [according to data available till April 23]. KMU alone conducted a record 902 tests across three 24-7 shifts.”
Explaining the method, the provincial minister said that pool testing involves taking multiple samples and conducting a combined test.
“Used by Germany and other European countries, pool testing is carried out for population sampling in areas where there is low prevalence. “Under this theory, if you are conducting three, five, 10 tests, the results of which come back negative, then that population pool can be ruled out and 10 others can be declared negative.”
However, if one of the cases comes back positive, you will have to retest all samples individually, he said. “There is an advantage [in using this method]: for example, a plane carrying 200 passengers had arrived from Dubai and one person had tested positive. “If you had carried out 40 [testing] pools, one pool would have tested positive. From this pool, you would have tested the five people again [to confirm their diagnosis] and you could have wrapped up 200 tests quicker.”
He added that under the “All 27 of the trials had 100 per cent congruence; their results matched those of individual tests. Therefore, KP has gone beyond the experimental phase and is going to implement this at scale.”