Covid-19: Algarve uses ‘pool testing’ to test over 20,000 people

The Algarve Biomedical Centre (ABC) has already carried out over 20,000 Covid-19 tests using a ‘pool’ method which involves testing 10 samples at once instead of just one.

The concept is simple: instead of testing one person at a time, samples from multiple people are tested as one. If the results are negative, everyone in the pool is ‘Covid-free’. If not, each person has to be tested individually.

This allows authorities to test many more people, saving time and resources, explains ABC president Nuno Marques.

He assures ‘pool testing’ is so efficient that just “one positive or inconclusive case” will be detected.

In fact, studies have shown that the number of samples that could be tested together could be even larger, although ABC has decided to test no more than 10 at the same time “to be completely safe”.

The biomedical centre has been using pooled testing for over two months, mostly to test low-risk groups. Marques admits the method is only viable when the number of infected is believed to be low.

Still, ABC’s method has been so successful that other countries are interested in replicating it.

“We have held videoconferences with representatives from teams in London and the UK which will follow this kind of testing with the formula we are using at ABC,” Marques said.

USA, the country with the most reported cases, is also said to be considering implementing the method.