Exploring Workplace Testing with Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction SARS-CoV-2 Testing

J Am Board Fam Med. 2022 Jan-Feb;35(1):96-101. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2022.01.210284.


Background: Molecular tests (ie, real-time polymerase chain reaction [RT-PCR]) and antigen tests are used to detect SARS-CoV-2. RT-PCR tests are generally considered to be the standard for clinical diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 due to accuracy and reliability but can take longer to return results than antigen tests. Our aim was to examine if point-of-care (POC) testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection would provide a flexible resource to help achieve workplace safety. We compared test results and time-to-test results between a POC RT-PCR test and a send-out PCR test in a program implemented in summer 2020.

Results: POC testing shortened the time to results to 110 minutes in the POC setting from the 754 minutes for send-out tests. The specificity of POC RT-PCR single POC testing was 98.7% compared with send-out RT-PCR testing and was confirmed at 99.8% in a validation analysis. The sensitivity of the POC testing was 100% compared with send-out RT-PCR, although in a validation analysis, sensitivity appeared as 0% because only the 12 positive or indeterminate samples on the first analysis were retested and the majority were false-positives that were correctly ruled out.

Conclusions: POC testing for SARS-CoV-2 with RT-PCR technology is possible at reduced time compared with send-out PCR testing.

Keywords: COVID-19; Point-of-Care Testing; Polymerase Chain Reaction; SARS-CoV-2; Screening; Workplace.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Workplace