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COVID ; 1(4):717-727, 2021.
Article in English | MDPI | ID: covidwho-1542442


(1) Background: With vaccination and new variants of SARS-CoV-2 on the horizon, efficient testing in schools may enable prevention of mass infection outbreaks, keeping schools safe places and buying time until decisions on feasibility and the necessity of vaccination in children and youth are made. We established, in the course of the WICOVIR (Where Is the COrona VIRus) study, that gargle-based pool-PCR testing offers a feasible, efficient, and safe testing system for schools in Germany when applied by central university laboratories. (2) Objectives: We evaluated whether this approach can be implemented in different rural and urban settings. (3) Methods: We assessed the arrangements required for successful implementation of the WICOVIR approach in a variety of settings in terms of transport logistics, data transfer and pre-existing laboratory set-up, as well as the time required to establish the set-up. (4) Results: We found that once regulatory issues have been overcome, all challenges pertaining to logistics, data transfer, and laboratory testing on different platforms can be solved within one month. Pooling and depooling of samples down to the individual test result were achievable within one working day in all settings. Local involvement of the community and decentralized set-ups were keys for success. (5) Conclusion: The WICOVIR gargle-based pool-PCR system is so robust and simple that it can be implemented within one month in all settings now or in future pandemics.

Front Pediatr ; 9: 721518, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1518517


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.