The New York Times –A BGU research team has pioneered a new coronavirus testing procedure, which is faster and more efficient than any now in use, testing samples in pools of as many as 48 people at once.
The Israeli government plans to roll out the new method in 12 labs across the country by October, anticipating that another wave of coronavirus infections could coincide with influenza season with potentially calamitous results.
In a study published in the journal Science Advances, Prof. Tomer Hertz from BGU’s Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics, Prof. Angel Porgador, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and member of the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN), and their team report that their algorithmic method — called P-BEST, for Pooling-Based Efficient SARS-CoV-2 Testing — successfully detected positives in pools of as many as 48 samples. The method accurately screened 1,115 health care workers with just 144 tests.
The new COVID-19 pooling test method, which was formally approved for clinical use by the Israeli health ministry on Tuesday, could allow schools, college campuses, businesses, and airlines to clear whole groups of people far faster than has been possible until now.
The pooled method is designed to only require one round of testing — a crucial savings in time, laboratory work flow and supplies, enabling larger populations in Israel and ultimately other countries to be tested accurately for COVID-19 at a lower cost, using fewer tests.