Ben-Gurion University develops more accurate, cheaper mass COVID test

“We’ve already successfully tested 40,000 samples in Israel during the first two weeks of clinical operation,” says Prof. Hertz.

Israelis perform tests for the coronavirus at a Maccabi Test Center, in Ramle. January 7, 2021 (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Israelis perform tests for the coronavirus at a Maccabi Test Center, in Ramle. January 7, 2021
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
A new single-stage test using a combinatorial pooling method for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, that will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by identifying infected people sooner and at a lower cost, was developed by National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN) researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center and researchers from the Open University of Israel (OUI). Clalit Health Services also collaborated on the development.  
The test successfully identified all positive patients and asymptomatic carriers in a single round of testing. 
BGU’s Prof. Tomer Hertz, of the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics explained that the method used to create this test “is the only process now available to deliver the level of mass testing that countries are currently aiming for in order to control outbreaks.”

A video was published on Youtube to explain how this new "magical" test is working.
 
While some labs pool samples that combine the RNA from several people as a single sample, they must retest each individual to determine which ones are positive, this new method eliminates the need for the second step.
Prof. Hertz is also the co-founder of Poold Diagnostics, which has been contracted to provide the test at Soroka and at the Clalit HMO central laboratory in Tel Aviv.
“We’ve already successfully tested 40,000 samples in Israel during the first two weeks of clinical operation,” says Prof. Hertz.
Prof. Hertz explained that introducing the Poold method at Soroka’s lab will multiply by four the current capacity of 2,000 samples a day with minimal increase in staffing and virtually no increase in materials required. 
“We’re pleased to see how quickly Ben-Gurion University researchers’ lifesaving, breakthrough technology has been implemented into laboratories where testing takes place,” says Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. 
“It’s wonderful to see these innovative tests being widely used in Israel and I hope we have it soon in the United States as well,” Seserman added, as the test could ultimately be used internationally at schools, airports and major events, as well as in large diagnostic laboratories.