1. Uttar Pradesh to start pool testing for Covid-19 to expedite process

  • What is pooled testing?

  • What are the guidelines given by ICMR for Pooled testing?

  • What is the need for pooled testing in India?

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GS paper 2 (Issues related to health, education and Human Resources.)

What is the context about?

  • Uttar Pradesh has obtained clearance from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to start “pool testing“.
  • It has become the first state in the country to attempt this method which aims at expediting the testing process for Covid-19.
  • It is critical to increase the numbers of tests conducted by laboratories. Positivity rate in cases is still low. Hence, it may help to use the pooled samples for screening.

What is pooled testing?

  • In a pooled testing algorithm, samples of multiple individuals are put together in a tube and screened through the PCR test.
  • In case the pooled test turns out to be positive, individual samples are tested, which is referred to as pool de-convolution.
  • If there’s no positive result, all individual samples in the pool are regarded as negative, resulting in substantial cost savings.

What are the guidelines given by ICMR for Pooled testing?

  • ICMR has advised that, while more than two samples can be pooled together, the number should not exceed five samples to avoid sample dilution, which can lead to false negatives.
  • This method can be used in areas where the prevalence of COVID-19 is low, which means a positivity rate of less than two percent.
  • In areas with a positivity rate between two to five percent, sample pooling of PCR screening may be considered in a community survey of surveillance among asymptomatic individuals.

What is the need for pooled testing in India?

  • Using this method, substantial costs and testing kits are saved. For instance, if a pooled sample consists of the samples of five individuals and it tests negative, the cost of four testing kits is saved.
  • Significantly, pooled screening can also help in tracking down the asymptomatic cases of the disease, thereby tracking community transmission.