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Head-to-head comparison of four antigen-based rapid detection tests for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory samples

By Thomas Weitzel, Paulette Legarraga, Mirentxu Iruretagoyena, Gabriel Pizarro, Valeska Vollrath, Rafael Araos, José M. Munita, Lorena Porte

Posted 30 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.27.119255

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the development and validation of rapid and easy-to-perform diagnostic methods are of high priority. We compared the performance of four rapid antigen detection tests for SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory samples. Immunochromatographic SARS-CoV-2 assays from RapiGEN, Liming bio, Savant, and Bioeasy were evaluated using universal transport medium containing naso-oropharyngeal swabs from suspected Covid-19 cases. The diagnostic accuracy was determined in comparison to SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR. A total of 111 samples were included; 80 were RT-PCR positive. Median patients' age was 40 years, 55% were female, and 88% presented within the first week after symptom onset. The evaluation of the Liming bio assay was discontinued due to insufficient performance. The overall sensitivity values of RapiGEN, Liming bio, and Bioeasy tests were 62.0% (CI95% 51.0–71.9), 16.7% (CI95% 10.0–26.5), and 85.0% (CI95% 75.6–91.2), respectively, with specificities of 100%. Sensitivity was significantly higher in samples with high viral loads (RapiGEN, 84.9%; Bioeasy, 100%). The study highlighted the significant heterogeneity of test performance among evaluated assays, which might have been influenced by the use of a non-validated sample material. The high sensitivity of some tests demonstrated that rapid antigen detection has the potential to serve as an alternative diagnostic method, especially in patients presenting with high viral loads in early phases of infection. This is particularly important in situations with limited access to RT-PCR or prolonged turnaround time. Further comparative evaluations are necessary to select products with high performance among the growing market of diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2.

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