Comparison of SARS-CoV-2 serological tests with different antigen targets

J Clin Virol. 2021 Jan:134:104690. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2020.104690. Epub 2020 Nov 17.


Background: These last months, dozens of SARS-CoV-2 serological tests have become available with varying performances. A major effort was completed to compare 17 serological tests available in April 2020 in Switzerland.

Methods: In a preliminary phase, we compared 17 IgG, IgM, IgA and pan Ig serological tests including ELISA, LFA, CLIA and ECLIA on a panel of 182 sera, comprising 113 sera from hospitalized patients with a positive RT-PCR, and 69 sampled before 1st November 2019, expected to give a positive and negative results, respectively. In a second phase, the five best performing and most available tests were further evaluated on a total of 582 sera (178 and 404 expected positive and negative, respectively), allowing the assessment of 20 possible cross-reactions with other viruses.

Results: In the preliminary phase, among eight IgG/pan-Ig ELISA or CLIA/ECLIA tests, five had a sensitivity and specificity above 90 % and 98 % respectively, and on six IgM/IgA tests, only one was acceptable. Only one LFA test on three showed good performances for both IgG and IgM. For all the tests IgM and IgG aroused concomitantly. In the second phase, no test showed particular cross-reaction. We observed an important heterogeneity in the development of the antibody response.

Conclusions: The majority of the evaluated tests exhibited high performances of IgG/pan-Ig sensitivity and specificity to detect the serological response of moderately to critically ill hospitalized patients. The IgM and IgA tests showed mostly insufficient performances with no added value for the early diagnostic on the cohort tested in this study.

Keywords: Evaluation; Kits; SARS-CoV-2; Serology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Antigens, Viral / blood*
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / pathology
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • COVID-19 Testing / methods
  • Cross Reactions
  • Humans
  • Immune Sera / chemistry
  • Immunoglobulin A / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Immunosorbent Techniques / classification
  • Immunosorbent Techniques / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Switzerland


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Immune Sera
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M