In its rush to contain COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed emergency pool testing for the virus. With pool testing, scientists can analyze samples from many people at once. Companies can use up to 4 samples to test.
Why Did the FDA Authorize Pool Testing?
Currently, COVID-19 tests in the US take about seven days to show results. And with the US still struggling with rising cases, those wait times won’t get cut short anytime soon. Quest Diagnostics owns the real-time PRC pool test, and they provided the wait time numbers. Quest is also the largest private medical testing company in the United States.
How Does Pool Testing Work?
With pool testing, companies can test up to four samples. The FDA says that one or more of the tested samples can lead to positive results. If this result happens, doctors can call in the sample sources for individual testing. This testing finds out which source from the four samples has the virus.
According to Gizmodo, the FDA has allowed emergency pool testing to save testing kits. The rising cases of COVID-19 in the US have depleted supplies from labs across the country. Through pool testing, they can runmore tests while using fewer test kits.
— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) July 19, 2020
Quest Diagnostics has said that they can do 125,000 molecular diagnostic tests per day. By the end of July, Quest expects to run 150,000 daily tests.
Companies React to FDA Authorization of Pool Testing
While the FDA’s decision was right, Jay Wohlgemuth warned that pool testing would not fix the US’ testing problem on its own. Wohlgemuth is Quest Diagnostics’ senior vice president and chief medical officer. He praised the FDA for allowing Quest to use its pool test kits.
“It is not a magic bullet,” Wohlgemuth said. People will still suffer long wait times because “demand outpaces capacity.” In the end, Wohlgemuth noted that people should practice safety measures to protect themselves and others.