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Reducing load on labs; JK adopts pooling of COVID-19 samples

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Srinagar: Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have started ‘pooled testing’ to reduce the load on virology labs besides clearing the pending samples already collected for testing.
As per official records around ten thousand samples collected for testing are still pending. “It is because of the aggressive sample collection but limited testing capacity in hospitals of J&K.” officials said
Dr G H Yatoo, nodal officer for Covid-19 at SKIMS told that they were working to clear the pending samples and authorities have decided to divert new samples to CD hospital, JVC Bemina and other laboratories till pending samples are cleared.
He said that they have same testing capacity as they were having in April but number of tests they receive now is almost five times more.
As per official records, around 36,000 samples have been tested so far at SKIMS and around 24, 000 have been tested at CD hospital.
Dr Yatoo said that by receiving more and more samples it will put more pressure on the health care officials who are already stressed due to the additional work load.
Meanwhile, authorities in SKIMS and other hospitals of Jammu and Kashmir have adopted pooled testing procedure recommend by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which is being considered as an effective way to conduct tests and to reduce load on labs.
A pooled testing algorithm involves the RT-PCR screening of a pool comprising multiple individual patient samples. If a pool turns out to be negative, all individual samples involved in that particular pool are regarded as negatives. On the other hand, if a pool tests positive, pool de-convolution – individual testing of samples is done.
Lt. Col Inam Danish Khan from Army’s command hospital Udhampur when contacted said that in last few days over 5000 pooled tests were conducted at the hospital while as number of un-pooled tests conducted at the hospital is below 1%.
The pooled strategy testing is being adopted in other countries like Germany. On April 13, to increase the number of tests in India, ICMR also issued an advisory on the feasibility of using pooled samples for molecular testing of COVID-19. In its advisory, ICMR has suggested the pooling of only five samples.
Experts say that pooling is very useful when you have a low prevalence of infection in a population.
“Once you get up to a considerable part of the population potentially infected then pooling loses its value because you will have to go back to the individual samples if your pool turns out positive,” he said.
Pooling is also considered as the cost-efficient way of testing a lot of samples. (KNO)

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