Comparison of seven commercial RT-PCR diagnostic kits for COVID-19
van Kasteren, Puck B et al.
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The final months of 2019 witnessed the emergence of a novel coronavirus in the human population. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has since spread across the globe and is posing a major burden on society. Measures taken to reduce its spread critically depend on timely and accurate identification of virus-infected individuals by the most sensitive and specific method available, i.e. real-time reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR). Many commercial kits have recently become available, but their performance has not yet been independently assessed. The aim of this study was to compare basic analytical and clinical performance of selected RT-PCR kits from seven different manufacturers (Altona Diagnostics, BGI, CerTest Biotec, KH Medical, PrimerDesign, R-Biopharm AG, and Seegene). We used serial dilutions of viral RNA to establish PCR efficiency and estimate the 95 % limit of detection (LOD95). Furthermore, we ran a panel of SARS-CoV-2-positive clinical samples (n = 13) for a preliminary evaluation of clinical sensitivity. Finally, we used clinical samples positive for non-coronavirus respiratory viral infections (n = 6) and a panel of RNA from related human coronaviruses to evaluate assay specificity. PCR efficiency was ≥96 % for all assays and the estimated LOD95 varied within a 6-fold range. Using clinical samples, we observed some variations in detection rate between kits. Importantly, none of the assays showed cross-reactivity with other respiratory (corona)viruses, except as expected for the SARS-CoV-1 E-gene. We conclude that all RT-PCR kits assessed in this study may be used for routine diagnostics of COVID-19 in patients by experienced molecular diagnostic laboratories.