Panbio antigen rapid test is reliable to diagnose SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first 7 days after the onset of symptoms

J Clin Virol. 2020 Dec;133:104659. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2020.104659. Epub 2020 Oct 16.


Background: RT-qPCR is the current recommended laboratory method to diagnose SARS-CoV-2 acute infection, several factors such as requirement of special equipment, time consuming, high cost and skilled staff limit the use of these techniques. A more rapid and high-throughput method is essential.

Methods: We analyzed clinical data and nasopharyngeal samples, collected during September 2020, from patients attended at the emergency department of a secondary hospital and in two primary healthcare centers in Madrid. The performance of the Panbio™ COVID-19 AG Rapid Test Device for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antigen was compared to RT-qPCR.

Results: 255 nasopharyngeal swabs, including 150 from the emergency department and 105 from primary helthcare centers, were tested. 184 patients were symptomatic (72.1 %). Amongst the 60 positive RT-qPCR samples, 40 were detected by the rapid antigen test, given an overall sensitivity of 73.3 %. All the samples detected positive with the rapid antigen test were also positive with RT-qPCR. The median cycle threshold was 23.28 (IQR 18.5-30.16). Patients with less than seven days onset of symptoms showed a higher viral load, and sensitivity for rapid antigen test (86.5 %), compared to those with more days (sensitivity of 53.8 %)(p < 0.004).

Conclusions: The rapid antigen test evaluated in this study showed a high sensitivity and specificity in samples obtained during the first week of symptoms and with high viral loads. This assay seems to be an effective strategy for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic for the rapid identification and isolation of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients.

Keywords: COVID19; Lateral flow assay; Point-of-care testing; RT-PCR; Rapid antigen detection test; SARS-CoV-2.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 Testing / methods*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharynx / virology
  • Point-of-Care Testing
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Viral Load


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic