RHEIN-MAIN – Pool testing of coronavirus samples can significantly increase test capacity worldwide. The Frankfurt University Clinic reported this breakthrough in a press release on Monday afternoon. For example, researchers at the blood donation service of the German Red Cross in Frankfurt led by Prof. Erhard Seifried and the Institute for Medical Virology at the University Hospital in Frankfurt led by Prof. Sandra Ciesek have succeeded in developing a method that enables the test capacities to be used to detect SARS-CoV -2 to increase significantly worldwide from now on.
“This will make it possible for all scientists and politicians to extend the testing to other population groups, even with limited test kit resources, earlier than previously thought,” says Seifried. In Germany alone, the current number of around 40,000 examinations per day can be increased immediately to 200,000 to 400,000 examinations without reducing the high quality of the diagnostics.
In the new approach, laboratory samples are combined in a buffer solution and then tested using the PCR method (polymerase chain reaction method, direct genome detection of SARS-CoV-2). If the result is negative, all samples contained therein have a reliably negative result. In the case of a positive mini-pool result, on the other hand, an individual test is carried out in previously prepared reserve samples. The positive sample can then be identified within four hours. The results of the pool solution are of the same quality as the individual tests, it said in the press release. However, pool testing enables a much larger number of tests by bundling the procedure.
“On the basis of these laboratory results, large cohorts and examinations can be carried out in asymptomatic people in particular, whereby massive savings, particularly of test kits, are possible,” said Ciesek. The research group is currently analyzing the possibility of further enlarging the pools. “The results make us optimistic that the procedure if established globally, will very quickly provide better information about the number of people actually infected,” explains Prof. Michael Schmidt from the blood donation service. The rights to the invention, for which a patent has been applied for in the USA and Europe, are jointly held by Goethe University and the DRK blood donation service. The technology can be made immediately accessible to other interested institutions via the knowledge transfer company of the Goethe University, Innovectis.
The President of Goethe University, Prof. Birgitta Wolff, described the new analysis procedure as a “milestone”: “The more people can be tested reliably on SARS-CoV-2, the faster the pandemic can be contained.” Seifried is also optimistic: “With the new method, Germany can raise the global fight against SARS-CoV-2 to a new level.”