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“Popsicle Method” Facilitates Simple Sampling

First Covid-19 Tests Carried Out on Campus

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Several test tubes on a table, a person is handing over a test swab to another person. © TU Dort­mund
On Monday, 15 March, the first Covid-19 tests were conducted in the new testing center.

The testing center at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity started pilot operations this week. Several test lanes with booths and waiting areas were set up in a tent on North Campus. A simple procedure, where participants take their samples for a PCR test themselves, was tested with a group of 20 people. In the frame­work of a re­search proj­ect, Klinikum Dort­mund has taken charge of analyzing these tests.

On Monday morning at 8.30 a.m., the students of a practical chem­is­try class came to TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity’s testing center. In line with current federal state law, their course is allowed to take place because it cannot run online and further postponing it would lead to substantial delays in study progress. At the present time, the class is even allowed without testing, but the students and their supervisors nonetheless voluntarily took part in a pilot trial at the uni­ver­si­ty. They tested a procedure which could be used to conduct mass Covid-19 testing on campus in the summer semester.

The sampling method is very simple: First you suck on a cotton swab for 30 seconds, then you insert it into your left and right nostril. The samples collected using this “popsicle method” can be analyzed in the laboratory by means of PCR. So that this is as efficient as possible, ten samples at a time are collected in a container and analyzed together. If the result is ne­ga­ti­ve, evidently none of the ten people is infected. If the result is positive, the respective B samples are then analyzed individually. The lower the incidence rate, the less often these second tests are necessary.

Collaboration with Klinikum Dort­mund

In the shape of Klinikum Dort­mund, TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has been able to recruit a partner who is not only implementing the new method in the frame­work of a re­search proj­ect but has also even already validated it. A swab from a single infected person leads to a positive result in a pooled test too, as the hospital established with the help of its own control samples. The tests of the TU mem­bers, on the other hand, were all ne­ga­ti­ve, and they were notified of the results today.

In order to control infections on campus, TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity does not want to offer in-person classes in the coming summer semester without mass testing. Although most teaching will continue to take place online, in-person attendance is just as necessary for laboratory or workshop classes as for practical tutorials in art, sport, music or journalism. According to an initial estimate, this concerns about a fifth of the 33,400 students as well as their lecturers. “Without testing, opening up teaching would be detrimental,” says Professor Matthias Schneider, head of Medical and Biological Physics, who is actively involved in the NoCovid initiative.

A tent with several booths and tables as waiting areas. © Christian Sürkemper​/​ TU Dort­mund
A testing center with booths and waiting areas has been set up on the campus of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity.

Sampling procedure must be as simple as possible

To be able to offer Covid-19 tests for such a large group, the sampling procedure must be as simple as possible. For PCR tests, this also includes laboratory software that can handle the labelling of samples for further processing. Since standard products already on the market do not yet provide for delivering pooled samples to the laboratory, TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity needs to have its own solution in place for this. Alternatively, the uni­ver­si­ty is already examining to what extent antigen tests could also be used in fu­ture, which could be carried out as at-home tests and monitored via video. This would help to reduce people’s mobility and contacts in the event of an infection. At the same time, monitoring at-home tests via video would ensure that samples are taken and analyzed correctly. However, it is still unclear when approved products might be available on the market in sufficient quantity and quality. As was announced at the end of last week, the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia has purchased these tests first of all for high schools.

In view of the rising incidence rate, it is not yet clear either under which legal conditions TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity will be able to start the summer semester on 12 April. “With a testing concept, selected practical classes should be able to take place at universities so that students do not lose even more study time,” says Professor Manfred Bayer, President of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. That is why, together with Albrecht Ehlers, Chancellor, he is soliciting the support of the federal state and the city for the uni­ver­si­ty’s testing strategy. At the present time, the General Ruling on the Operation of Universities in North Rhine-Westphalia allows in-person classes in exceptional cases, while adhering to hygiene standards and social distancing rules, if it is not possible to run such classes online and postponing them would mean grave disadvantages for the students, in particular a significant delay to study progress.

Contact for further in­for­mation:

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is “Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen” (closer to South Campus), and from B 1 / A 40 “Dort­mund-Dorstfeld” (closer to North Campus). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from North Campus to South Campus by car, there is the connection via Vo­gel­pothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at North Campus and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has its own train station (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät”). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station (“Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof”) and Düsseldorf main station via the “Düsseldorf Airport Train Station” (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station “Stadtgarten”, usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At “Stadtgarten” you switch trains and get on line U42 towards “Hombruch”. Look out for the Station “An der Palmweide”. From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop “Dort­mund Kampstraße”. From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop “Dort­mund Wittener Straße”. Switch to bus line 447 and get off at “Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. There are two stations on North Campus. One (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”) is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the “Technologiepark” and (via South Campus) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at North Campus and offers a direct connection to South Campus every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the uni­ver­si­ty are located in the adjacent “Technologiepark”.

Site Map of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity (Second Page in English).