A team of three Israeli scientists has pioneered a coronavirus testing procedure that they say is faster and more efficient than any now in use, testing samples in pools of as many as 48 people at once.

The Israeli government plans to roll out the new method in 12 labs across the country by October, anticipating that another wave of coronavirus infections could coincide with influenza season with potentially calamitous results.

''We have done everything we can in order to be ready,'' said Ronen Walfisch, an engineer at the Defence ministry who oversaw a pilot project to oversaw to test the method's efficacy. The method passed with flying colours, he said.

Moran Szwarcwort Cohen, who runs the virology lab at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, said the new pooled-testing method, which was formally approved for clinical use by the Israeli Health Ministry last week, could allow schools, college campuses, businesses and airlines to clear whole groups of people far faster than has been possible until now.

''It's a huge game changer,'' said Dr. Cohen, who was not involved in the new research.

Pooled testing for coronavirus has received much attention in the United States as inundated labs have struggled to cope with the backlogs and shortages of chemicals, pipette tips and other supplies.

Most pooling efforts elsewhere rely on a simplistic approach developed to teat World War II draftees for syphilis. That so-called Dorfman method, named for the economist who dreamed it up, calls testing pools of samples from several people at once.

If the pool tests negative, then all individuals are considered negative. If the pool tests positive, then additional samples from each individual must be retested to see which are positive.

The Israeli method, by contrast, is designed to require only one round of testing - a crucial saving of time, laboratory work flow and supplies.

The World Student Society thanks author, David M. Halbfinger.


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