Antibody Tests in Detecting SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Meta-Analysis

Diagnostics (Basel). 2020 May 19;10(5):319. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics10050319.


The emergence of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2 made imperative the need for diagnostic tests that can identify the infection. Although Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) is considered to be the gold standard, serological tests based on antibodies could be very helpful. However, individual studies are usually inconclusive, thus, a comparison of different tests is needed. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis in PubMed, medRxiv and bioRxiv. We used the bivariate method for meta-analysis of diagnostic tests pooling sensitivities and specificities. We evaluated IgM and IgG tests based on Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), Chemiluminescence Enzyme Immunoassays (CLIA), Fluorescence Immunoassays (FIA), and the Lateral Flow Immunoassays (LFIA). We identified 38 studies containing data from 7848 individuals. Tests using the S antigen are more sensitive than N antigen-based tests. IgG tests perform better compared to IgM ones and show better sensitivity when the samples were taken longer after the onset of symptoms. Moreover, a combined IgG/IgM test seems to be a better choice in terms of sensitivity than measuring either antibody alone. All methods yield high specificity with some of them (ELISA and LFIA) reaching levels around 99%. ELISA- and CLIA-based methods perform better in terms of sensitivity (90%-94%) followed by LFIA and FIA with sensitivities ranging from 80% to 89%. ELISA tests could be a safer choice at this stage of the pandemic. LFIA tests are more attractive for large seroprevalence studies but show lower sensitivity, and this should be taken into account when designing and performing seroprevalence studies.

Keywords: COVID-19; ELISA; IgG; IgM; SARS-CoV-2; antibody test.