Federal health officials are hoping to stretch the supplies used to test for the coronavirus by combining samples from a number of people and running a single test. Chinese health officials used that strategy to rapidly test large populations in Wuhan and Beijing.
The technique, called pooled testing, won’t resolve the testing bottlenecks in the United States. But it could help.
The idea is simple. Instead of running a coronavirus test on every specimen that arrives in a lab, take a sample of that specimen and combine it with samples from other specimens. Then run a single test on that pooled sample.
If it comes back negative, you can assume that all of the original samples are negative. A single test has done the work of five or 10, compared with testing the samples individually.