Sensitivity and Specificity of SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Detection Tests Using Oral, Anterior Nasal, and Nasopharyngeal Swabs: a Diagnostic Accuracy Study

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The objective of our study was to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of rapid antigen detection tests versus those of reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) using oral, anterior nasal, and nasopharyngeal swabs. The underlying prospective, diagnostic case-control-type accuracy study included 87 hospitalized and nonhospi- talized participants in a positive and a negative sample cohort between 16 March and 14 May 2021 in two hospitals in Vienna. SARS-CoV-2 infection status was con- firmed by RT-PCR. Participants self-performed one oral and one anterior nasal swab for the rapid antigen test, immediately followed by two nasopharyngeal swabs for the rapid antigen test and RT-PCR by the investigator. Test results were read after 15 min, and participants completed a questionnaire in the meantime. Test parameters were calculated based on the evaluation of 87 participants. The overall sensitivity of rapid antigen detection tests versus that of RT-PCR with oral, anterior nasal, and nasopharyn- geal samples was 18.18% (95% confidence interval [CI] 8.19% to 32.71%), 63.04% (95% CI 47.55% to 76.79%), and 73.33% (95% CI 58.06% to 85.4%), respectively. All sampling methods had a test specificity of 100% regardless of the cycle threshold (CT) value. Rapid antigen detection tests using self-collected anterior nasal swabs proved to be as sensitive as and more tolerable than professionally collected nasopharyngeal swabs for CT values up to 30 determined by RT-PCR. This finding illustrates the reliability of tests obtained by adequate self-collected anterior nasal specimen. Sensitivity was depend- ent upon the CT value for each sampling method. While the main advantage of rapid antigen detection tests is the immediate availability of results, PCR should be preferred in crucial settings wherever possible.

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