Diagnostic Performance of Rapid Antigen Testing for SARS-CoV-2: The COVid-19 AntiGen (COVAG) study

Christoph Wertenauer (Coresponding Author), Geovana Brenner Michael, Alexander Dressel, Caroline Pfeifer, Ulrike Hauser, Eberhard Wieland, Christian Mayer, Caren Mutschmann, Martin Roskos, Hans Jörg Wertenauer, Angela P. Moissl, Stefan Lorkowski, Winfried März

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Rapid diagnostic testing for SARS-Cov-2 antigens is used to combat the ongoing pandemic. In this study we aimed to compare two RDTs, the SD Biosensor Q SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Test (Roche) and the Panbio COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test (Abbott), against rRT-PCR. Methods: We included 2,215 all-comers at a diagnostic center between February 1 and March 31, 2021. rRT-PCR-positive samples were examined for SARS-CoV-2 variants. Findings: Three hundred and thirty eight participants (15%) were rRT-PCR-positive for SARS-CoV-2. The sensitivities of Roche-RDT and Abbott-RDT were 60.4 and 56.8% (P < 0.0001) and specificities 99.7% and 99.8% (P = 0.076). Sensitivity inversely correlated with rRT-PCR-Ct values. The RDTs had higher sensitivities in individuals referred by treating physicians (79.5%, 78.7%) than in those referred by health departments (49.5%, 44.3%) or tested for other reasons (50%, 45.8%), in persons without any comorbidities (74.4%, 71%) compared to those with comorbidities (38.2%, 34.4%), in individuals with COVID-19 symptoms (75.2%, 74.3%) compared to those without (31.9%, 23.3%), and in the absence of SARS-CoV-2 variants (87.7%, 84%) compared to Alpha variant carriers (77.1%, 72.3%). If 10,000 symptomatic individuals are tested of which 500 are truly positive, the RDTs would generate 38 false-positive and 124 false-negative results. If 10,000 asymptomatic individuals are tested, including 50 true positives, 18 false-positives and 34 false-negatives would be generated. Interpretation: The sensitivities of the two RDTs for asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers are unsatisfactory. Their widespread use may not be effective in the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The virus genotype influences the sensitivity of the two RDTs. RDTs should be evaluated for different SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number774550
JournalFrontiers in Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • antigen testing
  • COVID-19
  • diagnostic performance
  • rapid detection
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • sensitivity
  • variants

Field of Science*

  • 3.2 Clinical medicine
  • 3.3 Health sciences

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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