Comparison of Rapid Antigen Tests' Performance between Delta (B.1.61.7; AY.X) and Omicron (B.1.1.529; BA1) Variants of SARS-CoV-2: Secondary Analysis from a Serial Home Self-Testing Study

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2022 Mar 2:2022.02.27.22271090. doi: 10.1101/2022.02.27.22271090.


Background: There is a need to understand the performance of rapid antigen tests (Ag-RDT) for detection of the Delta (B.1.61.7; AY.X) and Omicron (B.1.1.529; BA1) SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Methods: Participants without any symptoms were enrolled from October 18, 2021 to January 24, 2022 and performed Ag-RDT and RT-PCR tests every 48 hours for 15 days. This study represents a non-pre-specified analysis in which we sought to determine if sensitivity of Ag-RDT differed in participants with Delta compared to Omicron variant. Participants who were positive on RT-PCR on the first day of the testing period were excluded. Delta and Omicron variants were defined based on sequencing and date of first RT-PCR positive result (RT-PCR+). Comparison of Ag-RDT performance between the variants was based on sensitivity, defined as proportion of participants with Ag-RDT+ results in relation to their first RT-PCR+ result, for different duration of testing with rapid Ag-RDT. Subsample analysis was performed based on the result of participants' second RT-PCR test within 48 hours of the first RT-PCR+ test.

Results: From the 7,349 participants enrolled in the parent study, 5,506 met the eligibility criteria for this analysis. A total of 153 participants were RT-PCR+ (61 Delta, 92 Omicron); among this group, 36 (23.5%) tested Ag-RDT+ on the same day, and 84 (54.9%) tested Ag-RDT+ within 48 hours as first RT-PCR+. The differences in sensitivity between variants were not statistically significant (same-day: Delta 16.4% [95% CI: 8.2-28.1] vs Omicron 28.2% [95% CI: 19.4-38.6]; and 48-hours: Delta 45.9% [33.1-59.2] vs. Omicron 60.9% [50.1-70.9]). This trend continued among the 86 participants who had consecutive RT-PCR+ result (48-hour sensitivity: Delta 79.3% [60.3-92.1] vs. Omicron: 89.5% [78.5-96.0]). Conversely, the 38 participants who had an isolated RT-PCR+ remained consistently negative on Ag-RDT, regardless of the variant.

Conclusions: The performance of Ag-RDT is not inferior among individuals infected with the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant as compared to the Delta variant. The improvement in sensitivity of Ag-RDT noted with serial testing is consistent between Delta and Omicron variant. Performance of Ag-RDT varies based on duration of RT-PCR+ results and more studies are needed to understand the clinical and public health significance of individuals who are RT-PCR+ for less than 48 hours.

Publication types

  • Preprint