Health Care

FDA gives green light on ‘pool testing’ to increase diagnostic capacity

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization for Quest Diagnostics to begin pooled testing — a testing technique increases capacity, allowing up to four test samples to be tested at once.

The authorization comes as the U.S. tries to contain a massive resurgence of COVID-19, with the country reporting over 70,000 new cases of the virus on Saturday, according to a tally from The New York Times.

Pooled testing is relatively straightforward: If the pooled test comes back negative, then all four samples are negative. If it comes back positive, then each sample is individually tested. 

“This [emergency use authorization] for sample pooling is an important step forward in getting more COVID-19 tests to more Americans more quickly while preserving testing supplies,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

“Sample pooling becomes especially important as infection rates decline and we begin testing larger portions of the population.”

The method isn’t novel,  it’s been around for decades, and has been used during the pandemic by several countries, including China, Germany, Israel and Thailand. Pooled testing has also been used by the U.S. military since the 1940s.

An unpublished report from the White House coronavirus task force this week put 18 states in the “red zone,” meaning that they all have 100 new cases per 100,000 people per week.

Throughout the pandemic, the U.S. has struggled to implement widespread testing, a measure that health officials say can help track down and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier in July, numerous states reported long lines wrapping around COVID-19 testing facilities, with some localities running out of tests completely.  More than half of states in the U.S. are not hitting their targets for testing, according to the Times. 

Just 11 states, including Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts have hit their targets for testing. 

Tags coronavirus pandemic emergency use authorization FDA FDA second wave Stephen Hahn

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