Paired Antigen and PCR Testing

When university students, faculty or staff are being tested for COVID-19 because they have symptoms, or have been identified as at risk from exposure, a testing strategy different from that of surveillance with polymerase chain reaction(PCR) molecular testing is necessary for adequate mitigation of transmission. Being able to isolate a person immediately after a positive rapid antigen(BinaxNow) effectively ends their risk of further transmission. In September 2020 at A&T we started doing paired antigen and PCR on everyone. We have now done over 20,000 antigen tests with PCR confirmation. The rapid antigen picks up 2 out of 3 that are eventually positive on PCR with a false positive rate below 1%. The PCR positive person can be isolated after results 24-48h later. This reduces the cumulative transmission rate for the 3 individuals enough to interrupt congregate living and group activity clusters rapidly as long as you are prepared to aggressively contract trace and test when a cluster or positive wastewater is identified. Waiting on PCR results in an exposed population before isolation does not control transmission effectively. Being able to contact trace immediately from positive antigen results is much more effective than waiting on PCR results. When indoor masking is already required, adding suspension of in person dining, dorm visitation and group activities will also help stop transmission when positive cases are rising.

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University

Institution Size
10,000 - 19,999
Institution Type
Length Of Study
4-Year (undefined)
Geographic Region
Institution Locale
Institutional Attribute
Historically Black College or University (HBCU)
Level of approach