A SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Antigen-Detecting Half-Strip Lateral Flow Assay Towards the Development of Point of Care Tests Using Commercially Available Reagents

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has created an unprecedented need for rapid diagnostic testing to enable the efficient treatment and mitigation of COVID-19. The primary diagnostic tool currently employed is reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), which can have good sensitivity and excellent specificity. Unfortunately, implementation costs and logistical problems with reagents during the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic have hindered its universal on demand adoption. Lateral flow assays (LFAs) represent a class of diagnostic that, if sufficiently clinically sensitive, may fill many of the gaps in the current RT-PCR testing regime, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). To date, many serology LFAs have been developed, though none meet the performance requirements necessary for diagnostic use cases, primarily due to the relatively long delay between infection and seroconversion. However, based on previously reported results from SARS-CoV-1, antigen-based SARS-CoV-2 assays may have significantly better clinical sensitivity than serology assays. To date, only a very small number of antigen-detecting LFAs have been developed. Development of a half-strip LFA is a useful first step in the development of any LFA format. In this paper we present a half-strip LFA using commercially available antibodies for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. We have tested this LFA in buffer and measured an LOD of 0.62 ng/mL using an optical reader with sensitivity equivalent to a visual read. Further development, including evaluating the appropriate sample matrix, will be required for this assay approach to be made useful in a point of care setting, though this half-strip LFA may serve as a useful starting point for others developing similar tests.