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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-21265946

ABSTRACT

We prepared severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) working standards and reference panels from a pool of swab fluid samples before and after inactivation by beta-propiolactone and quantified viral load in nucleic acid amplification technology (NAT) detectable RNA copies/mL using limiting dilution analysis. The following 50% lower limits of detection (LOD) were estimated by probit analysis as compared to detection limits of rapid antigen tests on 1.5 fold dilutions of the native material: Roche cobas PCR 1.8 (1.0-3.3), Hologic Aptima TMA 6.6 (4.4-9.9), DRW SAMBA 15 (7-30), Molgen LAMP 23 (13-42), Fluorecare antigen 50,000, Abbott Panbio antigen 75,000 and Roche antigen 100,000 copies/mL. One 50% Tissue Culture Infectious Dose (TCID50)/mL of culture fluid was estimated to be equivalent to approximately 1000 RNA copies/mL (2700-4300 International Units) in our working standard. When assuming this level as start of contagiousness in a log-linear ramp up viremia model with 10-fold rise of viral load per day for the B.1 (Wuhan) type we estimated relative time points of first detectability of early infection by the different SARS-CoV-2 assays from the LODs mentioned above. The four NAT assays would be able to detect early viremia 40-66 hours earlier than the 1000 copies/mL infectivity threshold, whereas the three antigen tests would become positive 41-48 hours later. Our modeling of analytical sensitivity data was found to be compatible with clinical sensitivity data of rapid antigen tests and confirms that NAT assays are more reliable than antigen assays for identifying early infected asymptomatic individuals who are potentially infectious.

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