Performance of Rapid Antigen Tests to Detect Symptomatic and Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Jan 23:2022.08.05.22278466. doi: 10.1101/2022.08.05.22278466.


Background: Performance of rapid antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 (Ag-RDT) varies over the course of an infection, and their performance in screening for SARS-CoV-2 is not well established. We aimed to evaluate performance of Ag-RDT for detection of SARS-CoV-2 for symptomatic and asymptomatic participants.

Methods: Participants >2 years old across the United States enrolled in the study between October 2021 and February 2022. Participants completed Ag-RDT and molecular testing (RT-PCR) for SARS-CoV-2 every 48 hours for 15 days. This analysis was limited to participants who were asymptomatic and tested negative on their first day of study participation. Onset of infection was defined as the day of first positive RT-PCR result. Sensitivity of Ag-RDT was measured based on testing once, twice (after 48-hours), and thrice (after 96 hours). Analysis was repeated for different Days Post Index PCR Positivity (DPIPP) and stratified based on symptom-status.

Results: In total, 5,609 of 7,361 participants were eligible for this analysis. Among 154 participants who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, 97 were asymptomatic and 57 had symptoms at infection onset. Serial testing with Ag-RDT twice 48-hours apart resulted in an aggregated sensitivity of 93.4% (95% CI: 89.1-96.1%) among symptomatic participants on DPIPP 0-6. Excluding singleton positives, aggregated sensitivity on DPIPP 0-6 for two-time serial-testing among asymptomatic participants was lower at 62.7% (54.7-70.0%) but improved to 79.0% (71.0-85.3%) with testing three times at 48-hour intervals.

Discussion: Performance of Ag-RDT was optimized when asymptomatic participants tested three-times at 48-hour intervals and when symptomatic participants tested two-times separated by 48-hours.

Publication types

  • Preprint