Direct Comparison of SARS-CoV-2 Nasal RT- PCR and Rapid Antigen Test (BinaxNOW(TM)) at a Community Testing Site During an Omicron Surge
Posted 10 Jan 2022
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2022.01.08.22268954
Posted 10 Jan 2022
In 731 persons seeking COVID-19 testing at a walk-up San Francisco community site in January 2022, simultaneous nasal rapid antigen testing (BinaxNOW(TM)) and RT-PCR testing was performed. There were 296 (40.5%) positive tests by RT-PCR; 98.5% of a random sample (N=67) were the omicron variant. Sensitivity of a single antigen test was 95.2% (95% CI 92-98%); 82.1% (95% CI 77-87%) and 65.2% (95% CI 60-71%) for Ct threshold of < 30, < 35 and no threshold, respectively. We also compared BinaxNOW(TM) to RT-PCR from oral cheek swabs to nasal swabs (N=75); oral cheek specimen was significantly less sensitive than nasal swab. A single BinaxNOW(TM) oral cheek rapid antigen test failed to detect 91% (20 of 22) of specimens that were BinaxNOW(TM) positive from the standard nasal sampling. In a separate direct comparison of BinaxNOW(TM) between specimens collected from nasal or throat (tonsillar) swab (N=115), sensitivity was 97.7% for nasal and 48.8% for throat swabs that were PCR-positive on nasal swab with a Ct threshold < 30. Among persons with either a nasal or throat RT-PCR positive swab with Ct<30, BinaxNOW(TM) sensitivity was 85.7% for nasal and 89.8% for nasal plus throat swabs. BinaxNOW continues to be a very useful diagnostic during the omicron surge; oral (throat or cheek swab) should not replace nasal swabs due to significantly reduced sensitivity compared to nasal. As currently recommended, repeat testing should be done for high-risk persons with an initial negative antigen test result.
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