Results of WICOVIR Gargle Pool PCR Testing in German Schools Based on the First 100,000 Tests

  • Background: Opening schools and keeping children safe from SARS-CoV-2 infections at the same time is urgently needed to protect children from direct and indirect consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve this goal, a safe, efficient, and cost-effective SARS-CoV-2 testing system for schools in addition to standard hygiene measures is necessary. Methods: We implemented the screening WICOVIR concept for schools in the southeast of Germany, which is based on gargling at home, pooling of samples in schools, and assessment of SARS-CoV-2 by pool rRT-PCR, performed decentralized in numerous participating laboratories. Depooling was performed if pools were positive, and results were transmitted with software specifically developed for the project within a day. Here, we report the results after the first 13 weeks in the project. Findings: We developed and implemented the proof-of-concept test system within a pilot phase of 7 weeks based on almost 17,000 participants. After 6 weeks in the main phase of the project, we performed >100,000 tests in total, analyzed in 7,896 pools, identifying 19 cases in >100 participating schools. On average, positive children showed an individual CT value of 31 when identified in the pools. Up to 30 samples were pooled (mean 13) in general, based on school classes and attached school staff. All three participating laboratories detected positive samples reliably with their previously established rRT-PCR standard protocols. When self-administered antigen tests were performed concomitantly in positive cases, only one of these eight tests was positive, and when antigen tests performed after positive pool rRT-PCR results were already known were included, 3 out of 11 truly positive tests were also identified by antigen testing. After 3 weeks of repetitive WICOVIR testing twice weekly, the detection rate of positive children in that cohort decreased significantly from 0.042 to 0.012 (p = 0.008). Interpretation: Repeated gargle pool rRT-PCR testing can be implemented quickly in schools. It is an effective, valid, and well-received test system for schools, superior to antigen tests in sensitivity, acceptance, and costs.

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Author:Parastoo Kheiroddin, Patricia Schöberl, Michael Althammer, Ezgi Cibali, Thea Würfel, Hannah Wein, Birgit Kulawik, Heike Buntrock-Döpke, Eva Weigl, Silvia Gran, Magdalena Gründl, Jana Langguth, Benedikt Lampl, Guido Judex, Jakob Niggel, Philipp Pagel, Thomas SchratzenstallerORCiD, Wulf Schneider-Brachert, Susanne Gastiger, Mona Bodenschatz, Maike Konrad, Artem Levchuk, Cornelius Roth, David Schöner, Florian Schneebauer, René Rohrmanstorfer, Andreas Burkovski, Andreas Ambrosch, Thomas Wagner, Michael Kabesch
Parent Title (English):Frontiers in Pediatrics
Editor:Danilo Buonsenso
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2021
Contributing Corporation:WICOVIR Study Group
Release Date:2021/11/12
Tag:COVID-19; Germany; PCR; children; gargle; pandemic; pooling; schools
GND Keyword:Covid-19; Polymerase-Kettenreaktion; Nachweis; Schulkind; Deutschland
Article Number:721518
Institutes:Fakultät Maschinenbau
Regensburg Center of Biomedical Engineering - RCBE
Fakultät Maschinenbau / Labor Medizinprodukte
OpenAccess Publikationsweg:Gold Open Access- Erstveröffentlichung in einem/als Open-Access-Medium
research focus:Lebenswissenschaften und Ethik
Licence (German):Creative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International
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