COVID-19 antibody detecting rapid diagnostic tests show high cross-reactivity when challenged with pre-pandemic malaria, schistosomiasis and dengue samples

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COVID-19 Antibody Detecting Rapid Diagnostic Tests (COVID-19 Ab RDTs) are the preferred tool for SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence studies, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The present study challenged COVID-19 Ab RDTs with pre-pandemic samples of patients exposed to tropical pathogens. A retrospective study was performed on archived serum (n = 94) and EDTA whole blood (n = 126) samples obtained during 2010-2018 from 196 travelers with malaria (n = 170), schistosomiasis (n = 25) and dengue (n = 25). COVID-19 Ab RDTs were selected based on regulatory approval status, independent evaluation results and detecting antigens. Among 13 COVID-19 Ab RDT products, overall cross-reactivity was 18.5%; cross-reactivity for malaria, schistosomiasis and dengue was 20.3%, 18.1% and 7.5%, respectively. Cross-reactivity for current and recent malaria, malaria antibodies, Plasmodium species and parasite densities was similar. Cross-reactivity among the different RDT products ranged from 2.7% to 48.9% (median value 14.5%). IgM represented 67.9% of cross-reactive test lines. Cross-reactivity was not associated with detecting antigens, patient categories or disease (sub)groups, except for schistosomiasis (two products with ≥60% cross-reactivity). The high cross-reactivity for malaria, schistosomiasis and-to a lesser extent-dengue calls for risk mitigation when using COVID-19 Ab RDTs in co-endemic regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1163
JournalDiagnostics (Basel)
Issue number7
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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