Comparison of SARS-CoV-2 antigen electrochemiluminescence immunoassay to RT-PCR assay for laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19 in Peshawar

Diagnosis (Berl). 2021 Aug 30;9(3):364-368. doi: 10.1515/dx-2021-0078. eCollection 2022 Aug 1.


Objectives: Antigen based rapid diagnostic tests possesses a potential to be utilized along with Gold standard methods to detect Covid-19 infection to cope with the demand of testing. The aim of this study was to determine diagnostic accuracy of electrochemiluminescence based automated antigen detection immunoassay comparing with molecular based test RT-PCR (Covid-19).

Methods: It was a cross-sectional study conducted in RMI Peshawar, from 1st April 2021 till 30th April 2021. The study comprised 170 individuals who were suspected of having Covid-19. Nasopharyngeal samples taken from suspected individuals were analyzed by RT-PCR and automated antigen test (Elecsys SARS-CoV-2 Antigen) simultaneously. The correlation of SARS-CoV-2 antigen with PCR positive and negative cases was analyzed for specificity, sensitivity respectively.

Results: The ECLIA based Elecsys antigen test (Roche) revealed overall sensitivity 72%, specificity 95% and accuracy of 94.9%. Sensitivity of antigen test progressively declined from 94.3% in Ct <25 to 70.8% in Ct 26-29 and then to 47.2% in Ct 30-35.

Conclusions: Based on the findings of our study we conclude that automated antigen testing (Elecsys SARS-CoV-2 Antigen) cannot replace molecular based testing like RT PCR. Elecsys SARS-CoV-2 Ag test should be used complementary to RT-PCR in testing algorithms. Frequent testing strategy should be adopted while using automated antigen testing to overcome its limitation in individuals with low viral loads.

Keywords: COVID-19; RT-PCR; SARS-CoV-2 antigen; electrochemiluminescence immunoassay; rapid diagnostic testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity