Screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection in asymptomatic individuals using the Panbio COVID-19 antigen rapid test (Abbott) compared with RT-PCR: A prospective cohort study

Beatrice Winkel, Emma Schram, Hendrik Gremmels, Sylvia Debast, Rob Schuurman, Annemarie Wensing, Marc Bonten, Edwin Goedhart, Marije Hofstra*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background Antigen-based point-of-care tests for identification of SARS-CoV-2 may markedly enhance effectiveness of population-based controlling strategies. Previous studies have demonstrated >70% sensitivity and high specificity compared with reverse transcriptase real-time PCR (RT-PCR) in symptomatic individuals, but test performance for asymptomatic individuals is unknown. Methods Test performance of the Panbio COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test (Abbott) was compared with RT-PCR in a longitudinal cohort study of asymptomatic football players and staff members of professional football clubs. Based on timing of symptoms and prior and subsequent test results, positive RT-PCR tests were categorised as presymptomatic, early or late infection, or persistent RNA shedding. Findings 2425 tests were performed in 824 individuals, of which 52 (6.3%) were SARS-CoV-2 positive based on RT-PCR. There were 2406 paired sets from asymptomatic subjects for analysis. Sixteen Panbio tests were inconclusive, for which sensitivity analyses were performed (considering results as either positive or negative or being excluded). Sensitivity of Panbio for screening of asymptomatic individuals ranged from 80.0% (61.4-92.3) to 86.67% (69.2-96.2) and specificity from 99.53% (95% CI 99.2 to 99.8) to 100% (95% CI 99.8 to 100). Sensitivity of Panbio to detect subjects with presymptomatic/early infection (n=42) ranged from 81.82% (95% CI 67.3 to 91.8) to 90.91% (95% CI 78.3 to 97.5) with specificity always above 99%. Interpretation The Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid test identifies 81%-90% of presymptomatic and early asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections with high specificity. This test may therefore be adopted in testing strategies such as targeted screening of specific populations where prevalence is low.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere048206
Pages (from-to)1-6
JournalBMJ Open
Volume11
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Antigens, Viral
  • COVID-19
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Prospective Studies
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Virology
  • Public health
  • Diagnostic microbiology

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