Corona test capacity can be expanded significantly with new method

Corona test capacity can be expanded significantly with new method

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New corona test procedure: Same accuracy, higher capacity

Corona test capacity is currently threatening to become a bottleneck in the identification of infected people and intensive work is already underway to increase capacity. Thanks to a new test procedure that was developed by a research team from the blood donation service of the German Red Cross in Frankfurt and the university clinic of the Goethe University Frankfurt, the test volume could be increased significantly in the short term without losing accuracy.

With the newly developed method, the test capacities for the detection of the new corona virus SARS-CoV-2 could be drastically increased worldwide, according to the Goethe University Frankfurt. This could also be used to further expand the corona tests in order to identify as many infected people as possible and to limit the transmission routes. The President of Goethe University, Prof. Dr. Birgitta Wolff sees the new analytical method as a “milestone” in the fight against the corona virus.

Increased corona testing required

The fact that corona tests can also help to contain the infections can be helpful and that medical staff in particular should be tested regularly, as the infection often runs without symptoms and affected people can still be carriers, is largely undisputed among experts.

Screening for systemically relevant professional groups

"In order to continue to implement the strategy of early detection and isolation efficiently, an expansion of the screening examinations is essential, especially for systemically relevant professions such as doctors, nurses, police, fire services, old people's homes, administration, food industry", emphasize the researchers of the blood donation service of the German Red Cross in Frankfurt and the University Hospital of Goethe University Frankfurt.

Lack of test capacity the bottleneck

However, the available test capacities are increasingly the bottleneck. Here, the research team led by Professor Erhard Seifried from the blood donation service of the German Red Cross and Professor Sandra Ciesek from the Institute for Medical Virology at the University Hospital of Goethe University Frankfurt took a new approach to significantly increase test capacities in the short term. In a pool test, several different samples are brought together and examined together. If the test is negative, all samples are free of viruses, otherwise an individual examination follows.

Test samples in the pool

For the pool test, mucosal swab samples of the throat or nose are combined in a buffer solution using suitable methods and then tested using the so-called PCR method (polymerase chain reaction method), explains the research team. Pool testing has no influence on the detection limit and if the mini-pool is positive, a single test is carried out in previously prepared reserve samples, so that positive samples can be identified within four hours.

Accuracy like single tests

Since the volume in the pool vessel does not increase with this pool method, there is no dilution and therefore no decrease in sensitivity (sensitivity), the research team continues. With the new mini pool method, laboratory results of the same quality as in the single test can be achieved. According to the researchers, initial checks in a small field test on 50 unselected patient samples, which were grouped into ten mini pools with five samples each, also confirmed the accuracy.

Corona tests can be expanded

"This makes it possible to implement the extension of testing to other population groups, which is required by all scientists and politicians, even with the limited test kit resources earlier than previously assumed," emphasizes Prof. Seifried. And Prof. Ciesek adds that "on the basis of these laboratory results in particular large cohorts and examinations can be carried out in asymptomatic people, whereby a massive saving of test kits in particular is possible". Currently, options are being worked on to further enlarge the pools.

From 4,000 to up to 400,000 tests per day

With the method that has now been developed, the corona test capacity throughout Germany can be increased from around 40,000 examinations per day to 200,000 to 400,000 examinations without reducing the high quality of the diagnostics, the researchers emphasize. "With the new method, Germany can raise the global fight against SARS-CoV-2 to a new level," said Prof. Because "the more people can be reliably tested for SARS-CoV-2, the faster the pandemic can be contained" , adds Prof. Wolff. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Goethe University Frankfurt: Pool testing of SARS-CoV-2 samples increases test capacity worldwide many times over (published March 30, 2020),

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