Rapid point-of-care testing for SARS-CoV-2 in a community screening setting shows low sensitivity

Public Health. 2020 May:182:170-172. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2020.04.009. Epub 2020 Apr 18.


Objective: With the current SARS-CoV2 outbreak, countless tests need to be performed on potential symptomatic individuals, contacts and travellers. The gold standard is a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)-based system taking several hours to confirm positivity. For effective public health containment measures, this time span is too long. We therefore evaluated a rapid test in a high-prevalence community setting.

Study design: Thirty-nine randomly selected individuals at a COVID-19 screening centre were simultaneously tested via qPCR and a rapid test. Ten previously diagnosed individuals with known SARS-CoV-2 infection were also analysed.

Methods: The evaluated rapid test is an IgG/IgM-based test for SARS-CoV-2 with a time to result of 20 min. Two drops of blood are needed for the test performance.

Results: Of 49 individuals, 22 tested positive by repeated qPCR. In contrast, the rapid test detected only eight of those positive correctly (sensitivity: 36.4%). Of the 27 qPCR-negative individuals, 24 were detected correctly (specificity: 88.9%).

Conclusion: Given the low sensitivity, we recommend not to rely on an antibody-based rapid test for public health measures such as community screenings.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Outbreak; Rapid test; SARS-CoV-2.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / standards*
  • Community Health Services*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Point-of-Care Testing*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors