Group screening for rare events based on incomplete block designs

Kent M. Eskridge, Steven G. Gilmour, Luis G. Posadas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fields such as, diagnostic testing, biotherapeutics, drug development, and toxicology among others, center on the premise of searching through many specimens for a rare event. Scientists in the business of “searching for a needle in a haystack” may greatly benefit from the use of group screening design strategies. Group screening, where specimens are composited into pools with each pool being tested for the presence of the event, can be much more cost-efficient than testing each individual specimen. A number of group screening designs have been proposed in the literature. Incomplete block screening designs are described here and compared with other group screening designs. It is shown under certain conditions, that incomplete block screening designs can provide nearly a 90% cost saving compared to other group screening designs such as when prevalence is 0.001 and screening 3876 specimens with an ICB-sequential design vs. a Dorfman design. In other cases, previous group screening designs are shown to be most efficient. Overall, when prevalence is small (≤0.05) group screening designs are shown to be quite cost effective at screening a large number of specimens and in general there is no one design that is best in all situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2770
JournalBiotechnology Progress
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • group testing
  • multistage
  • pooling
  • prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology

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