Back ground: Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID 19) in Uganda was first reported in a male traveler from Dubai on 21st March, 2020 shortly after WHO had announced the condition as a global pandemic. Timely laboratory diagnosis of COVID -19 for all samples from both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients was observed as key in containing the pandemic and breaking the chain of transmission. However, there was a challenge of limited resources required for testing SARS-COV-2 in low and middle income countries. To mitigate this, a study was conducted to evaluate a sample pooling strategy for COVI-19 using real time PCR. The cost implication and the turn around time of pooled sample testing versus individual sample testing were also compared.
Methods: In this study, 1260 randomly selected samples submitted to Uganda Virus Research Institute for analysis were batched in pools of 5, 10, and 15. The pools were then extracted using a Qiagen kit. Both individual and pooled RNA were screened for the SARS-COV-2 E gene using a Berlin kit.
Results: Out of 1260 samples tested, 21 pools were positive in pools of 5 samples, 16 were positive in pools of 10 and 14 were positive in pools of 15 samples. The study also revealed that the pooling strategy helps to save a lot on resources, time and expands diagnostic capabilities without affecting the sensitivity of the test in areas with low SARS-COV-2 prevalence.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated that the pooling strategy for COVID-19 reduced on the turnaround time and there was a substantial increase in the overall testing capacity with limited resources as compared to individual testing.