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BackgroundTesting for COVID-19 with quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) may result in delayed detection of disease. Antigen detection via lateral flow testing (LFT) is faster and amenable to population-wide testing strategies. Our study assesses the diagnostic accuracy of LFT compared to RT-PCR on the same primarycare patients in Austria.MethodsPatients with mild to moderate flu-like symptoms attending a general practice network in an Austrian district (October 22 to November 30, 2020) received clinical assessment including LFT. All suspected COVID-19 cases obtained additional RT-PCR and were divided into two groups: Group 1 (true reactive): suspected cases with reactive LFT and positive RT-PCR; and Group 2 (false non-reactive): suspected cases with a non-reactive LFT but positive RT-PCR.FindingsOf the 2,562 symptomatic patients, 1,037 were suspected of COVID-19 and 826 (79.7%) patients tested RT-PCR positive. Among patients with positive RT-PCR, 788/826 tested LFT reactive (Group 1) and 38 (4.6%) non-reactive (Group 2). Overall sensitivity was 95.4% (95%CI: [94%,96.8%]), specificity 89.1% (95%CI: [86.3%, 91.9%]), positive predictive value 97.3% (95%CI:[95.9%, 98.7%]) and negative predictive value 82.5% (95%CI:[79.8%, 85.2%]). Reactive LFT and positive RT-PCR were positively correlated (r = 0.968,95CI=[0.952,0.985] and κ=0.823 , 95%CI=[0.773,0.866]). Reactive LFT was negatively correlated with Ct-value ( r  = -0.2999, p   and pre-test symptom duration (r = -0.1299,p = 0.0043) while Ct-value was positively correlated with pre-test symptom duration (r = 0.3733),p InterpretationWe show that LFT is an accurate alternative to RT-PCR testing in primary care. We note the importance of administering LFT properly, here combined with clinical assessment in symptomatic patients.FundingThomas Czypionka received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programe under the grant agreement No 101016233 (PERISCOPE). No further funding was available for this study.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101011

Type

Journal article

Journal

EClinicalMedicine

Publication Date

08/2021

Volume

38

Addresses

Centre for Primary Care, Wolfson Institute of Population Health, Barts School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.