Over the past year, there has been a significant increase in rapid antigen test (RAT) detection of SARS-CoV‑2 COVID-19. Antigen detection is usually inferior to real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in terms of sensitivity and specificity. The aim of this study was to evaluate a RAT for specificity and sensitivity in an asymptomatic collective.
The study was carried out in January 2021 at a hospital located in a district with a 7-day index and an average of more than 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. COVID-19 patients are treated at this hospital. All employees with symptoms typical of COVID-19 were not allowed to go to work. We used RAT by Roche® (Roche Diagnostics GmbH, D-68305 Mannheim) and RT-PCR on our employees. The testing was done voluntarily. We performed RT-PCR and RAT using two swab tubes at the same time.
We could correlate 919 RAT to 919 RT-PCR tests. 12 people tested positive in RAT. All 12 tests were validated by RT-PCR. There was not one incorrect positive result in RAT. In one person COVID-19 was not detected by RAT, but then positively identified with a RT-PCR. In the group of positive RAT, the mean cycle threshold (CT) value was 19.95. Our results showed a sensitivity of 92.3%, CI (confidence interval) [0.78; 1.00] and a specificity of 100.00% CI [1.0; 1.0].
RAT can be an important tool for screening for SARS-CoV‑2 COVID-19 at the point of care. With low cost and resource needs, high specificity, and high specificity, RAT are performed best during the early stages of SARS-CoV‑2 COVID-19, when the viral loads are high.