Rapid antigen testing as a reactive response to surges in nosocomial SARS-CoV-2 outbreak risk

Nat Commun. 2022 Jan 11;13(1):236. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-27845-w.


Healthcare facilities are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 introductions and subsequent nosocomial outbreaks. Antigen rapid diagnostic testing (Ag-RDT) is widely used for population screening, but its health and economic benefits as a reactive response to local surges in outbreak risk are unclear. We simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in a long-term care hospital with varying COVID-19 containment measures in place (social distancing, face masks, vaccination). Across scenarios, nosocomial incidence is reduced by up to 40-47% (range of means) with routine symptomatic RT-PCR testing, 59-63% with the addition of a timely round of Ag-RDT screening, and 69-75% with well-timed two-round screening. For the latter, a delay of 4-5 days between the two screening rounds is optimal for transmission prevention. Screening efficacy varies depending on test sensitivity, test type, subpopulations targeted, and community incidence. Efficiency, however, varies primarily depending on underlying outbreak risk, with health-economic benefits scaling by orders of magnitude depending on the COVID-19 containment measures in place.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • COVID-19 Serological Testing / methods*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Cross Infection / diagnosis*
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control
  • Cross Infection / transmission
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Vaccination


  • Antigens, Viral