Evaluation of two fluorescence immunoassays for the rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 antigen-new tool to detect infective COVID-19 patients

PeerJ. 2021 Jan 21;9:e10801. doi: 10.7717/peerj.10801. eCollection 2021.


Background: Real-Time Reverse-Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) is currently the only recommended diagnostic method for SARS-CoV-2. However, rapid immunoassays for SARS-CoV-2 antigen could significantly reduce the COVID-19 burden currently weighing on laboratories around the world.

Methods: We evaluated the performance of two rapid fluorescence immunoassays (FIAs), SOFIA SARS Antigen FIA (Quidel Corporation, San Diego, CA, USA) and STANDARD F COVID-19 Ag FIA (SD Biosensor Inc., Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea), which use an automated reader. The study used 64 RT-PCR characterized clinical samples (32 positive; 32 negative), which consisted of nasopharyngeal swabs in universal transport medium.

Results: Of the 32 positive specimens, all from patients within 5 days of symptom onset, the Quidel and SD Biosensor assays detected 30 (93.8%) and 29 (90.6%) samples, respectively. Among the 27 samples with high viral loads (Ct ≤ 25), the two tests had a sensitivity of 100%. Specificity was 96.9% for both kits.

Conclusion: The high performance of the evaluated FIAs indicates a potential use as rapid and PCR-independent tools for COVID-19 diagnosis in early stages of infection. The excellent sensitivity to detect cases with viral loads above ~106 copies/mL (Ct values ≤ 25), the estimated threshold of contagiousness, suggests that the assays might serve to rapidly identify infective individuals.

Keywords: Antigen detection; Covid-19; Diagnosis; Rapid diagnostic test; SARS-CoV-2.

Grant support

The authors received no funding for this work.