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Antigen vs RT-PCR Tests for Screening Quarantined Students in Florida During the COVID-19 Pandemic SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant Surge

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

In the US, schools opened in fall 2021 during a surge of COVID-19 cases attributed to the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant.1 The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended masking in schools and return to school of asymptomatic quarantined close contacts at day 7 after the last date of SARS-CoV-2 exposure with a negative test result or at day 10 without a test. Rapid antigen tests have been proposed as a tool to reduce or even eliminate quarantine,2 but there are uncertainties about their performance compared with real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.35 Most validation studies on these tests were done before the Delta variant emerged, which may impact results because of the variant’s higher viral load.6 The aim of this study was to assess whether rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests gave comparable results and whether antigen testing on day 5 after SARS-CoV-2 exposure would be helpful in making decisions about when quarantined children can return to school.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: December 22, 2021.

Published Online: March 7, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.0080

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2022 Nelson EJ et al. JAMA Pediatrics.

Corresponding Author: Eric J. Nelson, MD, PhD, MS, Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida, 2055 Mowry Rd, Gainesville, FL 32611 (eric.nelson@ufl.edu).

Author Contributions: Mr Myers had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data; Dr Morris takes responsibility for the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Nelson, McKune, Ryan, Shapiro, Morris.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Nelson, McKune, Ryan, Mott-Young, Myers, Morris.

Drafting of the manuscript: Nelson, McKune, Ryan.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Nelson, Ryan, Shapiro, Mott-Young, Myers, Morris.

Statistical analysis: Nelson, McKune, Myers.

Administrative, technical, or material support: McKune, Mott-Young, Myers.

Supervision: Ryan, Morris.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Ms Shapiro reported receiving personal fees from the Florida Department of Health for COVID-19 contact tracing for the University of Florida during the conduct of the study. No other disclosures were reported.

Additional Contributions: We acknowledge the data collection and analysis efforts of the Alachua County Health Department and thank University of Florida faculty members Michael Lauzardo, MD, for insight; Marco Salemi, PhD, for sequencing Delta variants; and Derek A.T. Cummings, PhD, MHS, MS, for statistical support. We are grateful for the support of the School Board of Alachua County, FDOH, Alachua County Health Department, and Alachua County families for keeping children safe from COVID-19. These individuals and organizations did not receive compensation for their contributions.

References
1.
Bolze  A , Cirulli  ET , Luo  S ,  et al.  SARS-CoV-2 variant Delta rapidly displaced variant Alpha in the United States and led to higher viral loads.   medRxiv. Preprint posted online July 30, 2021. doi:10.1101/2021.06.20.21259195Google Scholar
2.
Young  BC , Eyre  DW , Kendrick  S ,  et al.  Daily testing for contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection and attendance and SARS-CoV-2 transmission in English secondary schools and colleges: an open-label, cluster-randomised trial.   Lancet. 2021;398(10307):1217-1229. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01908-5PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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Perchetti  GA , Huang  ML , Mills  MG , Jerome  KR , Greninger  AL .  Analytical sensitivity of the Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 ag card.   J Clin Microbiol. 2021;59(3):e02880-20. doi:10.1128/JCM.02880-20PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
4.
Pollock  NR , Jacobs  JR , Tran  K ,  et al.  Performance and implementation evaluation of the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test in a high-throughput drive-through community testing site in Massachusetts.   J Clin Microbiol. 2021;59(5):e00083-21. doi:10.1128/JCM.00083-21PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
5.
Prince-Guerra  JL , Almendares  O , Nolen  LD ,  et al.  Evaluation of Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 infection at two community-based testing sites—Pima County, Arizona, November 3-17, 2020.   MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(3):100-105. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7003e3PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
6.
Teyssou  E , Delagrèverie  H , Visseaux  B ,  et al.  The Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant has a higher viral load than the Beta and the historical variants in nasopharyngeal samples from newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients.   J Infect. 2021;83(4):e1-e3. doi:10.1016/j.jinf.2021.08.027PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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