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Explained: Pool Testing for COVID-19 & Differences From Current Testing Method

​The sudden outbreak of Novel Coronavirus wrecked the whole world and brought everything to an unprecedented halt. Millions of people have been infected with this virus and many have lost their lives to it. This pandemic has highlighted the need for health insurance​ cover for every individual. Medical experts and WHO have constantly urged to increase the testing rate to identify, isolate, and treat the infected person. This is the only way to break the chain of transmission and control the rapidly multiplying cases across the globe.

Despite many attempts to increase the number of tests, a shortage of test kits has been posing a great challenge in the way. To maximize the utility of the available resources, experts have opted for ‘pool testing’ for COVID-19

Let’s delve into the details of the concept of ‘pool testing’ and understand how it differs from the current testing method in practice.

What is Pool Testing?


Pool testing is a process where mucous swabs samples of the nose or throat of two to five people are collected in one test tube and are tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus using RT-PCR procedure. This process helps in detecting the presence of the virus or specific genetic material leading up to the contamination. If the pooled sample is tested positive, each person of that particular pool is tested individually to identify the infected one, who is thereafter isolated. 

Experts have found this method to be suitable for testing in areas with moderate to low cases. Medical researchers from Germany have suggested that pool testing can be done with a sample size of 25 people for a population of 150,000. However, ICMR has restricted the number of people per test at a maximum of 5. This eradicates the risk of inability to detect weak virus presence in a larger pool of sample which might end up in multiplying the transmission with each contact. 

Pool testing method has earlier been used to test for HIV, AIDS, Trachoma, and other communicable diseases.  

Difference Between Pool Testing and Current Testing Methods


In the wake of coronavirus, the availability of test kits is quite limited for every country. The cases of fake or faulty test kits have also been reported in various parts of the world. As a result, it is necessary to utilize the available testing kits wisely. 

Currently, the most commonly used testing method in India is to use one kit per person. It is being done on a very large scale through normal lab tests and rapid testing camps. Medical teams have also been doing door-to-door testing in hotspots and containment zones. However, this method has used up a lot of testing kits, given the population of India. 

On the other hand, using pool testing method has allowed maximum utilization of test kits with optimum results and has helped identify and isolate the infected cases. Currently, places with lesser population density and number of cases have resorted to this method and have benefitted from its results.

Coronavirus has been a reality check for everyone who has been taking health and wellness on a lighter note. Despite many organizations relentlessly curating and testing vaccines, nothing has been able to subdue this deadly virus yet. If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it makes the right investment and buy health insurance policy that can protect ourselves and our family in such unforeseen emergencies.