Evaluation of an immunochromatography-based rapid antigen test, Inspecter Kowa® SARS-CoV-2, using saliva specimens for the detection of SARS-CoV-2

J Infect Chemother. 2023 Jun;29(6):586-591. doi: 10.1016/j.jiac.2023.02.011. Epub 2023 Feb 26.


Background: In the context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a rapid and reliable point-of-care test is an essential tool for controlling the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In particular, an immunochromatography test (ICT) that uses saliva specimens for rapid antigen detection not only reduces the risk of secondary infections but also reduces the burden on medical personnel.

Methods: The newly developed salivary antigen test kit "Inspecter Kowa® SARS-CoV-2" is an ICT to which saliva specimens can be directly applied. We evaluated its usefulness in comparison with reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and the Espline® SARS-CoV-2 Kit for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 using nasopharyngeal swab specimens. In this study, 140 patients with suspected symptomatic COVID-19 who visited our hospital were enrolled, and nasopharyngeal swab and saliva specimens were collected after they consented to participate in the study.

Results: Inspector Kowa SARS-CoV-2 was positive in 45 of 61 (73.8%) saliva that were positive by RT-qPCR and the Espline® SARS-CoV-2 Kit was also positive in 56 of 60 (93.3%) Np swabs that were positive by RT-qPCR. Good antigen detection was achieved by ICT with saliva and nasopharyngeal swab specimens when viral load was ≥105 copies/mL, whereas detection sensitivity was low when viral load was <105 copies/mL, especially in saliva specimens.

Conclusion: This ICT for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 salivary antigen is an attractive tool that does not require specialized equipment and allows patients to perform the entire process from sample collection to self-diagnose and to reduce the burden on medical care during a pandemic.

Keywords: Antigen detection; COVID-19; Immunochromatography; SARS-CoV-2; Saliva.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods
  • Humans
  • Nasopharynx
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Saliva
  • Specimen Handling / methods