Background: Since the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, lateral flow assays (LFA) detecting specific antibodies have entered the market in abundance. Despite being CE-IVD-labeled, the antigenic compounds of the assays are often unknown, the performance characteristics provided by the manufacturer are often incomplete, and the samples used to obtain the data are not detailed.
Objective: To perform a comparative evaluation of nine lateral flow assays to detect IgG responses against SARS-CoV-2. For the evaluation, a carefully designed serum panel containing post-infection samples and post-vaccination (both mRNA vaccine and inactivated virus vaccine) samples was used.
Results: The sensitivity of the assays overall ranged from 9 to 90.3% and the specificity ranged from 94.2 to 100%. Spike protein-containing assays performed generally better than the assays with only nucleocapsid protein. The sensitivity of some assays was higher on post-infection samples, while other assays had a higher sensitivity to post-vaccination samples.
Conclusion: A comparative approach in the verification of LFAs with an adequately designed serum panel enabled the identification of the antigens used in the assays. Sensitivities differed between post-infection and post-vaccination samples, depending on the assays used. This demonstrates that the verification of assays must be performed with samples representative of the intended use of the assay.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; inactivated virus vaccine; lateral flow assay (LFA); mRNA-vaccine; post-infection; post-vaccination.