A SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid ELISA represents a low-cost alternative to lateral flow testing for community screening in LMI countries


BACKGROUND: Controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2 is problematic because of transmission driven by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. Community screening can help identify these individuals but is often too expensive for countries with limited health care resources. Low-cost ELISA assays may address this problem, but their use has not yet been widely reported. METHODS: We developed a SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid ELISA and assessed its diagnostic performance on nose and throat swab samples from UK hospitalised patients and sputum samples from patients in Ghana. RESULTS: The ELISA had a limit of detection of 8.4 pg/ml antigen and 16 pfu/ml virus. When tested on UK samples (128 positive and 10 negative patients), sensitivity was 58.6% (49.6-67.2) rising to 78.3% (66.7-87.3) if real-time PCR Ct values >30 were excluded, while specificity was 100% (69.2-100). In a second trial using the Ghanaian samples (121 positive, 96 negative), sensitivity was 52% (42.8-61.2) rising to 72.6% (61.8-81.2) when a >30 Ct cut-off was applied, while specificity was 100% (96.2-100). CONCLUSIONS: Our data show that nucleocapsid ELISAs can test a variety of patient sample types while achieving levels of sensitivity and specificity required for effective community screening. Further investigations into the opportunities that this provides are warranted.

Journal details

Volume 84
Issue number 1
Pages 48-55
Available online
Publication date


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