Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: The challenges of rapid upscaling of testing capacity were a major lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic response. The need for process adjustments in high-throughput testing laboratories made sample pooling a challenging option to implement. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to evaluate whether pooling samples at source (swab pooling) was as effective as qRT-PCR testing of individuals in identifying cases of SARS-CoV-2 in real-world community testing conditions using the same high-throughput pipeline. METHODS: Two cohorts of 10 (Pool10: 1,030 participants and 103 pools) and 6 (Pool6: 1,284 participants and 214 pools) samples per pool were tested for concordance, sensitivity, specificity, and Ct value differences with individual testing as reference. RESULTS: Swab pooling allowed unmodified application of an existing high-throughput SARS-Cov-2 testing pipeline with only marginal loss of accuracy. For Pool10, concordance was 98.1% (95% Confidence interval: 93.3-99.8%), sensitivity was 95.7% (85.5-99.5%), and specificity was 100.0% (93.6-100.0%). For Pool6, concordance was 97.2% (94.0-99.0%), sensitivity was 97.5% (93.7-99.3%), and specificity was 96.4% (87.7-99.6%). Differences of outcomes measure between pool size were not significant. Most positive individual samples, which were not detected in pools, had very low viral concentration. If only individual samples with a viral concentration > 400 copies/ml (i.e. Ct value 

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Virol

Publication Date





COVID-19, Community testing, High-throughput, Pool testing, SARS-CoV-2, Swab pooling, Humans, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, COVID-19 Testing, Pandemics, Laboratories