Under the auspices of Hadassah International, Prof. Dana Wolf, head of the Hadassah Medical Organization’s Clinical Virology Laboratory, reached out to teach Central and South Americans dealing with the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes how to implement the groundbreaking coronavirus “pooled testing” technique created at Hadassah.
Sixty researchers, heads of testing laboratories, hospital and nursing home directors, government officials, and Jewish community leaders in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico participated in a virtual meeting with Prof. Wolf on May 26.
Around the world, facilities for the aged are being ravished by COVID-19 as people with asymptomatic COVID-19 infect others, creating a wave of unstoppable infections. Testing for the virus to identify and isolate those who are infected is, of course, key to saving lives. However, testing is very expensive, and many nursing homes have limited financial resources. They need a relatively inexpensive way to test for COVID-19.
Prof. Wolf has developed an innovative technique to increase the number of accurate COVID-19 tests that can be performed daily, while simultaneously reducing the cost dramatically. This technique pools the samples from eight asymptomatic people in one test tube. This way, eight tests can be done for the price of one, and many more samples can be tested each day. Only if a pooled test comes back positive does the laboratory need to re-test the samples from each of the eight people separately.
While Prof. Wolf noted that each country must adapt the testing and validation processes to its specific situation and its accessibility to such supplies as robots and reagents, she provides a video that describes the laboratory process for performing pooled testing.
“Do not rely on the commercially available ‘test kits’ because they are too expensive,” Prof. Wolf advised webinar participants. “Do your own quality control to make sure that your tests work reliably.” She added, “Every day we learn something new about this virus. We are stronger when we all share everything we have learned.”