Diagnostic Accuracy of Rapid Antigen Detection Tests for Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

J Clin Microbiol. 2015 Dec;53(12):3738-49. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01816-15. Epub 2015 Sep 9.


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) rapid antigen detection tests (RADT) are extensively used in clinical laboratories. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the accuracy of RADTs for diagnosis of RSV infection and to determine factors associated with accuracy estimates. We searched EMBASE and PubMed for diagnostic-accuracy studies of commercialized RSV RADTs. Studies reporting sensitivity and specificity data compared to a reference standard (reverse transcriptase PCR [RT-PCR], immunofluorescence, or viral culture) were considered. Two reviewers independently extracted data on study characteristics, diagnostic-accuracy estimates, and study quality. Accuracy estimates were pooled using bivariate random-effects regression models. Heterogeneity was investigated with prespecified subgroup analyses. Seventy-one articles met inclusion criteria. Overall, RSV RADT pooled sensitivity and specificity were 80% (95% confidence interval [CI], 76% to 83%) and 97% (95% CI, 96% to 98%), respectively. Positive- and negative-likelihood ratios were 25.5 (95% CI, 18.3 to 35.5) and 0.21 (95% CI, 0.18 to 0.24), respectively. Sensitivity was higher in children (81% [95% CI, 78%, 84%]) than in adults (29% [95% CI, 11% to 48%]). Because of this disparity, further subgroup analyses were restricted to pediatric data (63 studies). Test sensitivity was poorest using RT-PCR as a reference standard and highest using immunofluorescence (74% versus 88%; P < 0.001). Industry-sponsored studies reported significantly higher sensitivity (87% versus 78%; P = 0.01). Our results suggest that the poor sensitivity of RSV RADTs in adults may preclude their use in this population. Furthermore, industry-sponsored studies and those that did not use RT-PCR as a reference standard likely overestimated test sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors


  • Antigens, Viral