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Evaluation of Analytical Performance of Seven Rapid Antigen Detection Kits for Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Virus

Authors Eshghifar N, Busheri A, Shrestha R, Beqaj S

Received 18 December 2020

Accepted for publication 15 January 2021

Published 12 February 2021 Volume 2021:14 Pages 435—440


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Nahal Eshghifar,1 Ali Busheri,1 Rojeet Shrestha,2 Safedin Beqaj1

1UltimateDx Laboratories, Los Angeles, CA, USA; 2Faculty of Health Sciences, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan

Correspondence: Safedin Beqaj
UltimateDx Laboratories, 516 North Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 92620, USA

Background: Early diagnosis of the novel coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) in asymptomatic and symptomatic patients is crucial to identify infectious individuals and to help prevent the spread of the virus in the community. Several assays have been developed and are in use in today’s clinical practice. These assays vary in their analytical and clinical performance. For an accurate diagnosis, medical professionals must become more familiar with the test’s utility to select the most appropriate test. This study aims to evaluate the analytical performance of rapid antigen tests used for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 viral antigen compared to RT-PCR SARS-CoV-2 molecular assay.
Methods: Oropharyngeal swab specimens from five COVID-19 patients were tested by seven rapid antigen tests developed by different IVD companies. RT-PCR to detect specific RNA fragments of SARS-CoV-2 was used as a confirmatory test. The cycle threshold (Ct) value, which often reflects viral load, in these specimens ranged from 15 to 35. For the analytical evaluation, extraction fluid of each antigen kit was spiked with attenuated ATCC virus at different concentrations ranging from 4.6x104/mL to 7.5x105/mL and tested with antigen testing kits.
Results: Out of five confirmed positive SARS-CoV-2 specimens by RT-PCR, only one sample showed a positive result by one of the seven evaluated antigen testing kits. The positive result was observed in the specimen with a Ct value of 15. All other evaluated rapid tests were negative for all five positive specimens. This was further confirmed with the spiking study using ATCC attenuated virus, where extraction fluid of each rapid test was spiked with concentrations ranging from 4.6x104/mL to 7.5x105/mL. None of these spiked specimens showed positive results, indicating very low sensitivity of these antigen kits.
Conclusion: This comparison study shows that rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than RT-PCR tests and are not reliable tests for testing asymptomatic patients, who often carry low viral load. Analytical performance of rapid antigen tests should be thoroughly evaluated before implementing it at clinical decision level.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, rapid antigen detection, RT-PCR

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