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COVID-19 Antigen Tests Comparison Review

In this article, we compare and contrast different Rapid Antigen Test Kits.

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What do COVID-19 rapid antigen tests do?

Rapid antigen tests can screen COVID-19 virus effectively and have become an effective screening tool for businesses, large factories, schools, and homes due to their easy-to-use feature. Most rapid antigen tests can provide you with the result within 15 minutes with more than 90% accuracy. If you interpret the result as positive within the suggested reading frame, please schedule a PCR molecular test with a local clinic and remain quarantined according to Health Canada policies. Antigen tests are only supposed to be interpreted within the recommended time frame, any reading past 30 minutes will be invalid.

There are many brands of rapid antigen tests that have been approved, different brands could differ in their sensitivity and specificity. Different rapid antigen tests can also differ in detection time, packaging, number of tests, etc. This article will review the most popular and current rapid antigen COVID-19 products available in the Canadian market. All the specifications will be later summarized into a table with each product’s specificity, sensitivity, quantity that comes in each kit. The sample collection method differs by collecting from Anterior Nasal (AN) also known as a shallow nasal swab, and Nasopharyngeal (NP) wherein the swabs go deeper behind the nose above the pharynx. Although NP could be less comfortable to most people, the NP swabs will have higher sensitivity and higher accuracy compared to nasal swabs.

Antigen Tests in the market

1. CovClear COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test

CovClear COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test. This kit include items for 25 tests. Kit has a QR code on it that can be scanned for telehealth, instructions, and result certification. Make sure to scan the QR code before you open the kit.

This rapid antigen kit is developed and manufactured in the USA and is now officially approved by Health Canada under interim order (IO#330172) for home-test use. CovClear highlights an easier testing procedure since no reader or cassette is required. It also has high specificity (~100%) as well as sensitivity (~96%) and comes with each test being individually packed, which allows the Business owners to distribute these tests to each of their employees without handing out a whole box. It is a lower nasal test, which is less invasive for the users compared to a nasal-pharyngeal test. The kit has three sizes available: 2 packs, 25 packs, and 50 packs. We are taking preorders at this moment and expect to have them in stock soon.

2. The Rapid Response™ COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test Device

Rapid Response COVID-19 Antigen test

The BTNX antigen tests are Health Canada Approved under interim order (IO#321669)and manufactured locally in Canada. The box comes in two different types of packages, a 5 pack and a 25 pack test kit.

The BTNX 25 can collect both Anterior Nasal samples and Nasopharyngeal samples. The Relative Sensitivity is 95.60 % for NP swab; 90.20% for a nasal swab. The Relative Specificity is 100 % for NP swab; 100% for a nasal swab. It is a point-of-care kit intended for health professionals and business use. It comes with 2 bottles of buffers and individually packaged 25 test cassettes, 25 swabs, 25 tubes and nozzles, 1 product insert, 1 tube stand. The package content for buffers may be different depending on lot number, newer updated 25-pack tests come with individually packaged buffers and 2 bottles of buffers in case customers run out of buffer solutions.

The 5-pack Rapid response antigen test is a smaller package compared to the 25 pack, individuals who are in need of a home test can purchase the 5-pack that is less expensive. It includes 5 test cassettes, 5 swabs, 5 tubes and nozzles, 1 product insert, 1 tube stand. All are individually packaged and suitable for individuals who only want to do testing for a small household. Currently, the 5-pack self-test is approved in 4 provinces including Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. Aurora is only able to ship the 5 pack to these provinces for self-use purposes. Please follow the Health Canada website as the policy may include other provinces in Canada in the future.

3. AssureTech FaStep Antigen test kits

FaStep rapid antigen test

The FaStep Antigen kits are manufactured in Hangzhou, China, it has been CE certified and Health Canada Approved under interim order (IO#321478). The sample collection method can be either Nasal or Nasopharyngeal swabs. Nasopharyngeal swabs have higher sensitivity compares to Nasal tests, the Relative Sensitivity is 94.3 % (84.6% ~ 98.1%); Relative Specificity: 99.1% (95.1% ~ 99.4%); Overall Agreement: 97.4 % (94.4% ~ 98.48%). The entire package comes in 20 Test cassettes, 20 Individually packed swabs, 20 individual Extraction buffers, 1 Tube stand, 1 Product insert. It can be an ideal package for businesses to screen individual workers constantly. FaStep reads result in 15 minutes, it is overall an efficient and easy-to-use product.

4. Standard Q SD Biosensor

Rapid Antigen Test kit with white background. The Sd Biosensor Standard Q, SDSQ kit costs $275 for 25 tests/box. Approved by Health Canada for testing for COVID-19

Standard Q is a product manufactured in South Korea that has been recently updated. It was a nasopharyngeal product and was recently revised into a nasal product. Both NP and AN tests are Health Canada Approved under interim order (IO#328889/313054) that can be used for lab-based and point of care. The relative sensitivity for SD is 97.12%, specificity is 100%. It is a premium product with individual packaging for 25 Test devices, 25 Extraction buffer tubes, 25 Nozzle caps, 25 Sterile swabs, 1 STANDARD COVID-19 Ag Positive Control swab, 1 STANDARD Respiratory Negative Control Swab, 2 Buffer tube racks, 1 Instructions for use. The difference between this product compared to other antigen test is it come with both a positive and a negative control swab for reference. The product can interpret result within 10-30 minutes.

5. Artron COVID-19 Antigen Test

Rapid Antigen Test kit with white background. The Artron kit costs $58 for 5 tests/box. Approved by Health Canada for testing for COVID-19. COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit made by Artron. The kit includes a swab. The swab can be nasal or nasopharyngeal swab. Instructions are included in the kit.

Artron antigen tests are manufactured and distributed in Canada. It is Health Canada Approved under interim order (IO#327866) for lab-based and point-of-care use. Artron antigen tests are effective for detecting both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing. It has a high sensitivity at 97.22% and specificity at 99.72%. Artron is recently approved for both nasal test and nasopharyngeal test that is more comfortable to perform for some individuals. It comes in 25 Test cassettes, 25 individually packed swabs,  25 extraction tubes, 25 extraction tube caps, 25 sealed sample buffers,1 tube rack,  1 package insert.

6. Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag Test Kit

COVID-19 Antigen test device made by Abbott. The box kit and test device is shown. The test device has two lines on for C and one for T. When results are shown the C should always be red, to show that the test was valid. The C stands for Control. If there is a red line for both C and T then the test was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Abbott Panbio COVID-19 Antigen test is a shallow nasal test manufactured in Germany. It tests and screens for both asymptomatic and symptomatic patients who are suspected to have COVID-19 infection. Abbott has a relative sensitivity at 91.1% and a relative specificity at 99.8%. It comes in 25 tests per box, 25 Extraction tubes, 25 sterilized nasal swabs, 1 tube rack, 1 positive and 1 negative control swab, 1 quick reference, and 25 individual buffers. It is a brand being widely distributed and with one potential flaw, customers usually have a high chance of running out of buffer solutions if they don’t follow the instruction guideline carefully. There will be no additional buffer once you run out.

Comparison table

BrandSpecificity (%)Sensitivity (%)Shelf Life (Months)ApplicationCollection Method(s)AsymptomaticSynmptomaticFDA/EUA Authorized
Abbott Panbio99.891.424POCNPNoYesYes
Acon Flowflex99.4(NP)/99.5(AN)97.6(NP)/97.1(AN)24POCNP/ANYesYesNo
Artron99.72(NP)/99.56(AN)97.22(NP)/91.3(AN)18POCNP/ANYesYesNo
Assure Tech FaStep98.3(NP)/100(AN)94.3(NP)/92.3(AN)18POCNP/ANNoYesNo
Boson98.0493.7518Lab basedNPNoYesNo
BTNX100(NP)/100(AN)95.8(NP)/90.2(AN)18POCNP/ANNoYesNo
Empowered CovClear10095.512OTCANYesYesNo
PBM Status COVID-19/Flu A&B10093.112POCNPNoYesYes
Quidel QuickVue (at home)99.381.324OTCNP/ANYesYesYes
SD Biosensor10094.9424POCNP/ANYesYesNo
*AN: Anterior Nasal - also known as a shallow nasal swab; NP: Nasopharyngeal - wherein the swabs go deeper behind the nose above the pharynx

*All data is subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, please visit Health Canada website. Latest update: Dec 13 2021.