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Ramp up mass testing with use of optimal batch size


Only a better picture of who’s been infected and who’s immune will enable easing off lockdown and social distancing measures. We suggest the use of batch testing to quickly ramp up testing capacity.

Batch testing is a proven method first used in WWII when tests were expensive. We can think of it as if testing light bulbs linked in series: if a single light bulk is broken the whole batch won’t light up.


  • Applying the same principle, researchers propose combining multiple patient samples in batches for testing. The question is: what’s a good batch size?;
  • Mathematically we can demonstrate that the ideal batch size depends on the infection probability in a given population;
  • Using a fixed batch size is usually sub-optimal and could let to a waste of already scarce resources.

As a social project we aim at providing a free, open-access web application for health agents to easily apply these principles and determine this ideal batch size.


More info:

Have you validated this method, if so, how and what were the results of the validation?

As industrial engineers, we only came up with a tool to determine the ideal batch size to use when testing groups of people.

Although, multiple renowned institutions came forward vouching for this approach:

Depending on the local infection probability, we believe using batch testing can increase capacity 4-fold.

How quickly could this be deployed and what are the dependencies?

Our tool is already available to help health workers to determine which batch size to use.

NHS only needs to distribute official guidelines and recommendations for sample collection and manipulation.

What is the likely production volume?​

The goal of this project is to promote the most efficient use of existing testing resources and kits. There is no requirement for the production of additional resources.

What are the risks and barriers to using this at scale?

Virtually none, but ultimately is up to health agents carrying out the tests.

Logistics planning and excellent coordination are required for the success of this strategy.

Who are you already partnering with on this?

I am part of "EffiScienc-y" project for the #EUvsVirus Pan-European Hackathon. This project was amongst the select 117 projects out of over 2000 projects from all over Europe.

As such, we have been working with the EU commission and EIC to further develop this project/strategy.

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Bev Matthews May 24, 2020

Status label added: C: Further assessment

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Tom Jordan Jun 25, 2020

Status label added: D2

Status label removed: C: Further assessment

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Tom Jordan Jun 25, 2020

Hi Joao, thank you for sharing this. We have passed the idea to the relevant team and they will be in touch should they have any questions. Kind regards, Tom

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Joao Felicio Jun 25, 2020

Hi Tom, thank you for the feedback.
Quick update from us on this project, we're currently working on a scientific paper comparing alternative algorithms to determine batch size. This will provide additional scientific background and will allow improved algorithms to be added to the tool.
Israeli and German researchers have also confirmed this technique is viable for groups up to 30 samples (
Do reach out if there are any questions.

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