A nationwide analytical and clinical evaluation of 44 rapid antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 compared to RT-qPCR

J Clin Virol. 2022 Aug;153:105214. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2022.105214. Epub 2022 Jun 8.


Background: The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has resulted in massive testing by Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) without solid independent data regarding clinical performance being available. Thus, decision on purchase of a specific RAT may rely on manufacturer-provided data and limited peer-reviewed data.

Methods: This study consists of two parts. In the retrospective analytical part, 33 RAT from 25 manufacturers were compared to RT-PCR on 100 negative and 204 positive deep oropharyngeal cavity samples divided into four groups based on RT-PCR Cq levels. In the prospective clinical part, nearly 200 individuals positive for SARS-CoV-2 and nearly 200 individuals negative for SARS-CoV-2 by routine RT-PCR testing were retested within 72 h for each of 44 included RAT from 26 manufacturers applying RT-PCR as the reference method.

Results: The overall analytical sensitivity differed significantly between the 33 included RAT; from 2.5% (95% CI 0.5-4.8) to 42% (95% CI 35-49). All RAT presented analytical specificities of 100%. Likewise, the overall clinical sensitivity varied significantly between the 44 included RAT; from 2.5% (95% CI 0.5-4.8) to 94% (95% CI 91-97). All RAT presented clinical specificities between 98 and 100%.

Conclusion: The study presents analytical as well as clinical performance data for 44 commercially available RAT compared to the same RT-PCR test. The study enables identification of individual RAT that has significantly higher sensitivity than other included RAT and may aid decision makers in selecting between the included RAT.

Funding: The study was funded by a participant fee for each test and the Danish Regions.

Keywords: Analytical sensitivity and specificity; Clinical sensitivity and specificity; Point of care tests; Rapid antigen tests; Reverse transcriptation polymerase chain reaction; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2* / genetics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity