Performance Characteristics of the Abbott BinaxNOW SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test in Comparison to Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase PCR and Viral Culture in Community Testing Sites during November 2020

J Clin Microbiol. 2022 Jan 19;60(1):e0174221. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01742-21. Epub 2021 Oct 27.


Point-of-care antigen tests are an important tool for SARS-CoV-2 detection. Antigen tests are less sensitive than real-time reverse transcriptase PCR (rRT-PCR). Data on the performance of the BinaxNOW antigen test compared to rRT-PCR and viral culture by symptom and known exposure status, timing during disease, or exposure period and demographic variables are limited. During 3 to 17 November 2020, we collected paired upper respiratory swab specimens to test for SARS-CoV-2 by rRT-PCR and Abbott BinaxNOW antigen test at two community testing sites in Pima County, Arizona. We administered a questionnaire to capture symptoms, known exposure status, and previous SARS-CoV-2 test results. Specimens positive by either test were analyzed by viral culture. Previously we showed overall BinaxNOW sensitivity was 52.5%. Here, we showed BinaxNOW sensitivity increased to 65.7% among currently symptomatic individuals reporting a known exposure. BinaxNOW sensitivity was lower among participants with a known exposure and previously symptomatic (32.4%) or never symptomatic (47.1%) within 14 days of testing. Sensitivity was 71.1% in participants within a week of symptom onset. In participants with a known exposure, sensitivity was highest 8 to 10 days postexposure (75%). The positive predictive value for recovery of virus in cell culture was 56.7% for BinaxNOW-positive and 35.4% for rRT-PCR-positive specimens. Result reporting time was 2.5 h for BinaxNOW and 26 h for rRT-PCR. Point-of-care antigen tests have a shorter turnaround time than laboratory-based nucleic acid amplification tests, which allows for more rapid identification of infected individuals. Antigen test sensitivity limitations are important to consider when developing a testing program.

Keywords: Abbott BinaxNOW SARS-CoV-2 Ag Card; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; antigen test; viral culture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Antigens, Viral