The Nencki Institute developed and implemented SONAR technology - a strategy for screening asymptomatic individuals for SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Institute was also the main initiator of the legislative process aimed at allowing group testing for COVID-19 diagnosis in Poland. This process culminated in an amendment to the Ordinance of the Minister of Health of April 22, 2021, which added a provision specifying the possibility of performing tests using the method of combining material collected from different individuals (group tests - SONAR). This was a direct response to the recommendation of the Health Committee of the Polish Senate initiated by the Nencki Institute.
SONAR is a combination of the latest diagnostic approaches: group testing, mathematical modeling and sensitive tests allowing detection of the virus in persons without symptoms of infection. The developed method is based on genetic tests (PCR) - using MediPAN tests. Unique in the country is the use of viral RNA isolated from saliva (not from nasopharyngeal swab), which ensures easy and non-invasive collection of material.
SONAR group testing should be used on a large scale in populations where the probability of infection is < 15%. Screening should be performed regularly, at least 1 time per week. The strategy is to isolate only infected individuals. People with negative test results (including those from 'contacts') are not socially excluded.
SONAR technology, with its accompanying application for laboratory diagnosticians, is recommended for testing employees of educational institutions, government offices, manufacturing facilities, DPS, etc.
Regular testing for SARS-CoV-2 enables informed and responsible management of work and educational processes during the pandemic period, and the developed technology can be used to monitor the level of infection not only with SARS-CoV-2 virus, but also in case of subsequent/other epidemics.
Benefits of implementing the SONAR strategy:
- effective prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic - possibility of early isolation of asymptomatic individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus
- time saving - during the analysis of 1 PCR plate (58 min.) we obtain results for 1080 persons
- cost saving - we test 1080 persons with 90 tests (instead of 1080) - if less than 2% of the population is infected, the cost saving is over 70%
- Reduced risk for medical staff - material for testing is collected by the tested person himself, thanks to the fact that RNA of the virus is isolated from saliva (not from nasopharyngeal swab)
- minimizing the invasiveness of the sample collection method - regular testing of employees is not associated with their exposure to the undesirable consequences of frequent nasopharyngeal swabs
- Easy access to the test result (in real time) - each person tested has an individual account in the SONAR system where they can check their test result
- a sense of security in the workplace/study area resulting in reduced stress and improved psychological well-being of employees/students
- minimization of negative economic and social consequences during lockdown (such as: loss of revenue, deterioration of the psychological condition of society).
- Business entities, government offices, educational institutions, production facilities, medical institutions, DPS, etc.
- Surveyed employees and their employers who do not have to suspend their activities in subsequent waves of the pandemic
- Laboratory diagnosticians and healthcare entities that have obtained the new COVID-19 diagnostic tool.