Classification of "Near-patient" and "Point-of-Care" SARS-CoV-2 Nucleic Acid Amplification Test Systems and a first approach to evaluate their analytical independence of operator activities

J Clin Virol. 2023 Aug:165:105521. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2023.105521. Epub 2023 Jun 8.


Background: European legislation defines as "near-patient testing" (NPT) what is popularly and in other legislations specified as "point-of-care testing" (POCT). Systems intended for NPT/POCT use must be characterized by independence from operator activities during the analytic procedure. However, tools for evaluating this are lacking. We hypothesized that the variability of measurement results obtained from identical samples with a larger number of identical devices by different operators, expressed as the method-specific reproducibility of measurement results reported in External Quality Assessment (EQA) schemes, is an indicator for this characteristic.

Materials and methods: Legal frameworks in the EU, the USA and Australia were evaluated about their requirements for NPT/POCT. EQA reproducibility of seven SARS-CoV-2-NAAT systems, all but one designated as "POCT", was calculated from variabilities in Ct values obtained from the respective device types in three different EQA schemes for virus genome detection.

Results: A matrix for characterizing test systems based on their technical complexity and the required operator competence was derived from requirements of the European In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation (IVDR) 2017/746. Good EQA reproducibility of the measurement results of the test systems investigated implies that different users in different locations have no recognizable influence on their measurement results.

Conclusion: The fundamental suitability of test systems for NPT/POCT use according to IVDR can be easily verified using the evaluation matrix presented. EQA reproducibility is a specific characteristic indicating independence from operator activities of NPT/POCT assays. EQA reproducibility of other systems than those investigated here remains to be determined.

Keywords: EQA; EQA reproducibility; External quality assessment; IVDR; NPT; Near-patient testing; POCT; Point-of-Care testing; SARS-CoV-2 NAAT.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • SARS-CoV-2* / genetics