Pool testing provides thousands of quick coronavirus tests for Alabama college students

The pool test allows the lab to turn around quicker results at a lower cost.

Posted: Aug 5, 2020 6:29 PM
Updated: Aug 5, 2020 8:14 PM

Thousands of college students got tested for coronavirus across Alabama again Wednesday as a part of the GuideSafe program. It launched 13 testing sites across Alabama, including three in North Alabama. 

However, the tests are processed at one lab in Birmingham through the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"The lab is extremely busy," Dr. Sixto Leal, director of microbiology for UAB said. "We are a 24/7 operation to get that 24-48 hour turnaround time for this initiative, and we are working hard to meet this need."

The quick turnaround makes senior Mallorie Davis confident before going back to Auburn.

"I feel safe to go back to school, I'm also ready to go back to school," Davis said. 

200,000 college students should be tested in the next four weeks before heading back to college campuses across the state. Dr. George Netto, Chair of UAB's Department of Pathology is confident in their supply, for now. 

"The way we design the test is that we are confident that these supplies will be available throughout this period of four weeks," Netto said. 

Before opening all 13 sites across Alabama, last week, UAB opened two sites to test out operations. One was in Tuscaloosa, another at UAB. Netto said of the 800 students tested last week, 1.5 percent came back positive.

This gave Netto and his team the confidence to move forward with pool sample testing. IT allows UAB's lab to test at a quicker rate, while utilizing fewer resources.

"With a 1.5 percent incidence rate, if we pool eight samples together, we pool 100 of them. We're expecting 12 of those pools to be positive," Leal said. "Those are 96 individual samples that need to be tested, so if we perform 196 tests, we can report on 800 tests with confidence."

The UAB lab will run state-wide tests in groups of eight. If it comes back positive, then all eight will be tested individually. Otherwise, all eight are presumed negative.

"In terms of accuracy, we've developed a diagnostic test with very high sensitivity so that when we dilute a sample one to 8, which is what we're doing, the sensitivity is still comparable to other FDA approved diagnostic tests," Leal said. 

Since all the tests across the state are processed in UAB's lab, the department of pathology reached out for more help.

"We've recruited 17 individuals with exceptional talent to help us with this initiative for pooling," Leal said.

The pool test allows the lab to provide quicker results at a lower cost.

"What we don't talk about a lot is the ability to make the costs per tests much lower," Netto said. "This test is probably 5 to 6 folds cheaper than if we were to use a commercial test.'

Once these four weeks of testing are complete, GuideSafe will continue to offer pool sample testing in case of an outbreak on any campuses.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 436087

Reported Deaths: 6486
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63969994
Mobile31211565
Madison27851208
Tuscaloosa21233271
Montgomery19698326
Shelby19093130
Baldwin16981188
Lee13036105
Morgan12526134
Etowah11987179
Calhoun11441206
Marshall10357123
Houston8886158
Limestone827876
Cullman8203108
Elmore8120104
DeKalb7828103
Lauderdale7798103
St. Clair7763125
Talladega6394111
Walker6002177
Jackson594644
Colbert545276
Blount543986
Autauga532761
Coffee456762
Dale406883
Franklin372448
Russell349212
Chilton342873
Covington336068
Escambia330144
Dallas312096
Tallapoosa3120107
Chambers301170
Clarke293336
Pike261131
Marion251558
Lawrence250752
Winston232742
Bibb221248
Geneva208746
Marengo206529
Pickens199031
Hale182742
Barbour179337
Fayette177029
Butler172459
Cherokee164330
Henry158224
Monroe151320
Randolph144336
Washington140127
Clay129146
Crenshaw122944
Macon120937
Cleburne120724
Lamar119721
Lowndes113736
Wilcox106622
Bullock102228
Perry99118
Conecuh96821
Sumter90026
Greene76823
Coosa63215
Choctaw51724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 701847

Reported Deaths: 8777
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby779711168
Davidson72385688
Knox39701432
Hamilton35466337
Rutherford33860294
Unassigned23587134
Williamson21906144
Sumner18644232
Out of TN1615282
Montgomery14979149
Wilson14728164
Sullivan12893218
Blount12267132
Washington12102203
Maury11179128
Bradley1108895
Sevier10704120
Putnam10116151
Madison9273183
Robertson782687
Hamblen7172117
Anderson6947114
Greene6719115
Tipton632969
Gibson5733114
Coffee573282
Dickson552682
Cumberland550576
Bedford540391
Roane530081
Lawrence518869
Carter5171115
McMinn516774
Warren504454
Loudon503550
Jefferson490178
Dyer483386
Monroe467063
Hawkins455272
Franklin420065
Fayette408751
Obion404582
Rhea388457
Lincoln385546
Marshall353338
Cocke352758
Cheatham347331
Weakley344248
Henderson336559
Campbell334940
Giles330574
Carroll315860
White315144
Hardeman314054
Hardin304250
Lauderdale296933
Macon293251
Wayne267424
Henry266958
Overton258846
DeKalb246342
McNairy245442
Haywood243747
Smith234230
Marion233932
Trousdale230315
Scott228832
Hickman227835
Claiborne224932
Fentress215734
Grainger214339
Johnson204634
Morgan193916
Crockett182438
Chester177439
Bledsoe177011
Unicoi169545
Cannon160320
Lake157821
Decatur148628
Polk147817
Union143225
Grundy142622
Sequatchie140319
Humphreys136717
Benton133435
Lewis130121
Meigs117616
Stewart109620
Jackson105723
Perry95825
Clay95426
Houston94624
Moore8299
Pickett69020
Van Buren6737
Hancock4177

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