Abbott ID NOWTM detecting COVID-19 in Québec
Published by: The Public Health Agency of Canada
Issue: Volume 47-12, December 2021: Social Media Responses to COVID-19
Date published: December 2021
Volume 47-12, December 2021: Social Media Responses to COVID-19
The PRONTO study: Clinical performance of ID NOW in individuals with compatible SARS-CoV-2 symptoms in walk-in centres—accelerated turnaround time for contact tracing
Isabelle Goupil-Sormany1,2, Jean Longtin3,4, Jeannot Dumaresq4,5, Marieve Jacob-Wagner3, Frédéric Bouchard6, Liliana Romero7, Julie Harvey8, Julie Bestman-Smith3,4, Mathieu Provençal9, Stéphanie Beauchemin9, Valérie Richard2, Annie-Claude Labbé9,10,11
1 Direction de la vigie sanitaire, Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec, QC
2 Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Faculté de Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC
3 Département de microbiologie et d'infectiologie du centre hospitalier universitaire (CHU) de Québec – Université Laval, Québec, QC
4 Département de microbiologie‐infectiologie et d'immunologie, Faculté de Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC
5 Département de microbiologie et d'infectiologie, CISSS de Chaudière‐Appalaches, Lévis, QC
6 Laboratoire de biochimie médicale, CISSS de Chaudière‐Appalaches, Lévis, QC
7 Direction de la Santé publique, CISSS de Chaudière‐Appalaches, Lévis, QC
8 Direction de la Santé publique, CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, Québec, QC
9 Département des laboratoires de biologie médicale, Grappe Optilab‐CHUM, Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC
10 Département de microbiologie, infectiologie et immunologie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC
11 Service de maladies infectieuses, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, CIUSSS de l'Est‐de‐l'Île‐de‐Montréal, Montréal, QC
Goupil-Sormany I, Longtin J, Dumaresq J, Jacob-Wagner M, Bouchard F, Romero L, Harvey J, Bestman-Smith J, Provençal M, Beauchemin S, Richard V, Labbé A-C. The PRONTO study: Clinical performance of ID NOW in individuals with compatible SARS-CoV-2 symptoms in walk-in centres—accelerated turnaround time for contact tracing. Can Commun Dis Rep 2021;47(12):534–42. https://doi.org/10.14745/ccdr.v47i12a04
Keywords: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, nucleic acid amplification tests, rapid tests, Abbott ID NOW, sensitivity and specificity, predictive value, diagnostic performance, point-of-care testing, Canada
Background: This PRONTO study investigated the clinical performance of the Abbott ID NOWTM (IDN) COVID-19 diagnostic assay used at point of care and its impact on turnaround time for divulgation of test results.
Methods: Prospective study conducted from December 2020 to February 2021 in acute symptomatic participants presenting in three walk-in centres in the province of Québec.
Results: Valid paired samples were obtained from 2,372 participants. A positive result on either the IDN or the standard-of-care nucleic acid amplification test (SOC-NAAT) was obtained in 423 participants (prevalence of 17.8%). Overall sensitivity of IDN and SOC-NAAT were 96.4% (95% CI: 94.2–98.0%) and 99.1% (95% CI: 97.6–99.8), respectively; negative predictive values were 99.2% (95% CI: 98.7–99.6%) and 99.8% (95% CI: 99.5–100%), respectively. Turnaround time for positive results was significantly faster on IDN.
Conclusion: In our experience, IDN use in symptomatic individuals in walk-in centres is a reliable sensitive alternative to SOC-NAAT without the need for subsequent confirmation of negative results. Such deployment can accelerate contact tracing, reduce the burden on laboratories and increase access to testing.
Currently, the most reliable methodologies for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing are standard laboratory-based nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT). However, over the first waves of the pandemic, reagent shortages and high demand have challenged our public health capacity and reactivityFootnote 1Footnote 2Footnote 3Footnote 4. The long turnaround time (TAT) required to produce a test result has also compromised search and contact tracing strategiesFootnote 5Footnote 6Footnote 7. Stand alone rapid tests in specific settings are expected to accelerate case and contact tracing, along with improving public health actionsFootnote 8Footnote 9Footnote 10.
The Abbott ID NOWTM (IDN) COVID-19 assay, an isothermal NAAT targeting a RdRp segment of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was granted Health Canada emergency use authorization on September 30, 2020. It is authorized as a lab-based and point-of-care diagnostic assay for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in individuals with COVID-19 symptoms for fewer than or equal to seven days at time of testing. Early published studies established a lower analytical sensitivity compared with many laboratory-based NAAT assaysFootnote 11Footnote 12Footnote 13Footnote 14Footnote 15. According to the product insert, negative results are to be treated as presumptive and be confirmed with a cleared NAAT. The Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network and the Canadian Society of Clinical Chemist subsequently recommended certain clinical use scenarios to balance expected limited sensitivity with other considerationsFootnote 16.
Published literature demonstrated that the clinical sensitivity of IDN was linked to corresponding viral loads, with false negative results tending to occur when the standard laboratory-based NAAT cycle thresholds (Ct) are 32 or higher, reflecting lower viral loadsFootnote 12Footnote 13Footnote 17. As shown by others, the highest viral loads were found in symptomatic participants presenting in community walk-in centresFootnote 9Footnote 10Footnote 11. The present study aimed to assess whether IDN could be used as a reliable stand-alone test (without subsequent confirmation) as a means to intervene more quickly on transmission chains, relieve laboratory human and material resources and give more autonomy to front-line healthcare providers. As such, we are reporting the agreement and clinical performance of the IDN, compared to a standard-of-care NAAT (SOC-NAAT) assay, among prospectively recruited symptomatic individuals presenting in community walk-in centres in the province of Québec, Canada.
In December 2020, IDN instruments were implemented in three walk-in centres in the province of Québec. Volunteer participants were asked to confirm that symptom onset was fewer than or equal to seven days prior to testing and to provide two samples simultaneously, as detailed in Table 1.
|Characteristics||Québec City and Montréal||Lévis|
|Type of centre||Walk-in clinic||Drive-thru clinicTable 1 Footnote a|
ONPS (when gargle not feasible)
|SOC-NAAT method||Laboratory-developed PCR||AllplexTM 2019-nCoV (Seegene) direct PCR|
|Sampling sequence||SOC-NAAT followed by IDN||IDN followed by SOC-NAAT|
The oropharyngeal and bilateral nasal swab (OBNS) for the IDN assay was collected with the foam swab provided with the Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 kit as follows: after swabbing the posterior pharynx, tonsils and other inflamed areas for a few seconds each, the swab was inserted in one nostril until a resistance was met at the level of the turbinates (approximatively 2 cm), rotated five times against the nasal wall and slowly removed from the nostril; the same swab was then used for the other nostril. The OBNS for IDN was collected after the oral and nasopharyngeal swab (ONPS) for SOC-NAAT in Québec City and MontréalFootnote 18, but performed prior to the gargle for SOC-NAAT in LévisFootnote 19, since the gargle procedure could dilute any virus present when swabbing for IDN.
The IDN test was performed on-site, within one hour of collection, by professionals from diverse training and experience backgrounds who were trained by our teams on using the IDN instrument as per the package insert.
The SOC-NAAT in Montréal (Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont; HMR) and Québec City (CHU de Québec) was a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay targeting the structural protein envelope E geneFootnote 18Footnote 20. Inactivation and thermal lysis, rather than chemical extraction, were performed prior to PCR testing, as previously describedFootnote 18. The SOC-NAAT in Lévis (Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux [CISSS] de Chaudière-Appalaches) was based on Seegene AllplexTM technology as previously describedFootnote 19.
No personal data were collected outside of the information available on the standard COVID-19 laboratory form (gender, age, duration of symptoms, COVID-19 contact history). The duration of symptoms and contact history, combined with supplemental NAAT when applicable, were used to classify infection stages of participants for whom discordant results were obtained. Acute infection was defined as at least having one symptom among fever, cough, runny nose, dyspnea, sore throat, anosmia and ageusia, or a combination of two of the following: headache, fatigue, muscle pain, anorexia, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps or diarrhea within seven days of onset. When the collected data revealed misclassification, erroneous data collected by staff or by participant mistake, the case remained included in the study since representing a real-life situation.
For each study site, TAT was defined as the time between sample collection and the availability of the laboratory report for concordantly positive pairs (both the IDN and the SOC-NAAT results were reported). In Lévis, the time between sample collection and completion of public health questionnaire with the case and household contacts was also calculated. The TAT for negative results was not monitored since negative IDN results were not reported during the study period.
This PRONTO study was undertaken in the midst of the second wave of the COVID-19 in Québec, with thousands of samples being received on a daily basis. There was a context of emergency (with public, administrative and media pressure) to implement rapid testing. Formal Ethical Review Board approval was lifted since the study was mandated by the directeur national de santé publique as part of the Public Health response during the sanitary emergency state. Explicit verbal consent was obtained from all participants after receiving a verbal description of the project.
Samples producing invalid results in either arm were excluded from the calculations.
Data were analyzed using a contingency table. In the absence of a gold standard for SARS-CoV-2 ribonucleic acid (RNA) detection, the reference method used for positive percent agreement and negative percent agreement was the SOC-NAAT. In addition to computing the overall rates of agreement, the level of agreement was assessed using kappa statistics (STATA V16.1). By definition, kappa values above 0.75 indicate excellent agreement, values between 0.40 and 0.75 indicate fair to good agreement, and values below 0.40 represent poor agreement beyond chanceFootnote 21. To evaluate the clinical sensitivity and negative predictive value of IDN and SOC-NAAT, a participant was considered infected if at least one result from the paired samples was positive, assuming 100% specificity of both assays. The 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were obtained with STATA V16.1.
Between December 6 and February 22, 2020, paired samples were obtained from 2,395 individuals. After exclusion of 23 pairs associated with an invalid result with either method, the performance analysis was based on 2,372 participants (Table 2).
|Participant characteristics||Québec City||Lévis||Montréal||Total|
|Symptomatic participants recruited||1,246||N/A||790||N/A||359||N/A||2,395||N/A|
|Invalid results||12||1.0||9||1.1||2||0.6||23Table 2 Footnote a||1.0|
|Valid paired samples||1,234||99.0||781||98.9||357||99.4||2,372||99.0|
|Age range (years)||1–88||N/A||1–83||N/A||1–80||N/A||1–88||N/A|
|Younger than 18 years of age||118||9.6||109||14.0||33||9.2||260||11.0|
As shown in Table 3, a total of 423 participants (17.8%) were considered infected (at least one positive result by IDN or SOC-NAAT). Positive concordant results were obtained on 404 pairs (95.5%); among the 19 discordant pairs, four were positive with IDN only and 15 with SOC-NAAT only. Agreement was excellent, as reflected by a kappa coefficient value of 0.97. Overall, IDN sensitivity and negative predictive value were respectively estimated at 96.4% (95% CI 94.2–98.0) and 99.2% (95% CI 98.7–99.6), with little (not statistically significant) variation across centres (Table 4).
|Location||PrevalenceTable 3 Footnote a||Results|
|PPATable 4 Footnote a||%||98.9||99.1||99.1||99.0|
|NPATable 4 Footnote a||%||99.6||99.4||97.2||99.2|
|Clinical performanceTable 4 Footnote b|
Characteristics of the 19 participants for whom discordant results were obtained are presented in Table 5. For the 15 negative IDN, the mean Ct value of the corresponding positive SOC-NAAT was 33.5 (range 30.9–35.0). The mean Ct values for the concordantly positive pairs, available for the Québec City site (26.0) and the Montréal site (23.5), were clearly lower, reflecting a higher viral load. Among the 15 participants for whom the discordant profile was SOC-NAAT positive/IDN negative, two were asymptomatic, four were considered as late presentation and nine as acutely infected. Among the four participants for whom the discordant profile was SOC-NAAT negative/IDN positive, two had an acute infection and two could not be staged nor confirmed by supplementary testing.
|Assessment center||SOC-NAATTable 5 Footnote a Ct value||Symptoms durationTable 5 Footnote bTable 5 Footnote c||Contact with a known caseTable 5 Footnote b||Supplementary testingTable 5 Footnote d||Clinical stage|
|IDN negative and SOC-NAAT positive (IDN false negative), n=15|
|Québec City||34.2||Symptoms resolved 6 days earlier||Unknown||
Initial SOC-NAAT sample retested after chemical extraction: positive result with Ct value of 33.4
Resampled 72 hours later and tested by IDN and SOC-NAAT with a Ct value of 35
|Late presentationTable 5 Footnote e (post-symptomatic)|
|34.8||N/A||Yes, but not detailed||Initial SOC-NAAT sample retested after chemical extraction: positive result with Ct value of 32.4||Asymptomatic|
|34.0||Less than 24 hours||Unknown||Initial SOC-NAAT sample retested after chemical extraction: positive result with Ct value of 32.9||Acute presentation|
|31.5||More than 7 days||Unknown||ND||Late presentationTable 5 Footnote e|
|Lévis||34.0 (2/3 genes)||N/A||Yes, but not detailed||
Resampled 2 days later: negative on IDN and SOC-NAAT
|32.0 (3/3 genes)||2 days||Home||ND||Acute presentation|
|30.9 (3/3 genes)||1 day||Workplace||IDN swabTable 5 Footnote f retested by two other assaysTable 5 Footnote g: weakly positive with one assay||Acute presentation|
|34.4 (3/3 genes)||1 day||Home||IDN swabTable 5 Footnote f retested by two other assaysTable 5 Footnote g: weakly positive with one assay||Acute presentation|
|Montréal||34.2||More than 7 days||Home||ND||Late presentationTable 5 Footnote e|
|33.5||1 day||Workplace||ND||Acute presentation|
|31.6||3 days||Home||ND||Acute presentation|
|35.0||7 days||Unknown||ND||Late presentationTable 5 Footnote e|
|34.2||2 days||No||ND||Acute presentation|
|34.9||4 days||Unknown||ND||Acute presentation|
|33.3||Less than 24 hours||School||Initial SOC-NAAT sample retested after chemical extraction: positive with Ct value of 33.7||Acute presentation|
|IDN positive and SOC-NAAT negative (SOC-NAAT false negative), n=4|
|Québec City||N/A||2 hours||School||
IDN swabTable 5 Footnote f tested by NAAT after chemical extraction: positive result with a Ct value of 25.5
Initial SOC-NAAT sample retested after chemical extraction: positive result with a Ct value of 33.8
IDN swabTable 5 Footnote f tested by NAAT after chemical extraction: positive result with a Ct value of 30.8
Initial SOC-NAAT sample retested after chemical extraction: positive result with a Ct value of 35.2
IDN swabTable 5 Footnote f tested by two other assays: negative results
Initial SOC-NAAT sample retested by two commercial assaysTable 5 Footnote g: negative results
|Acute presentation; possible false-positive IDN|
|Montréal||5 days||Home||ND||Acute presentation vs. possible false-positive IDN|
The TAT between sampling and availability of laboratory report of positive results was on average 20.1 hours for SOC-NAAT and 1.2 hours for IDN. In Lévis, TAT between sampling and end of public health tracing was on average 36.0 hours for the symptomatic individuals who either had SOC-NAAT positive/IDN negative results or did not participate in this study but were assessed at the same drive-through clinic during the same period, and for whom testing was performed by SOC-NAAT (n=283); it was 13.6 hours for the 110 participants for whom the IDN was positive, representing a difference of 22.4 hours (95% CI 18.8–26.1, p<0.0001).
In this PRONTO study, the clinical performance of IDN was compared to SOC-NAAT among a large number of symptomatic individuals in community-based walk-in centres. Agreement between the two testing strategies was nearly perfect. Although the sensitivity of IDN (96.4%) was slightly lower than for SOC-NAAT (99.1%), the difference was not statistically significant. Very few false negative results were observed in both arms, resulting in excellent negative predictive value of 99.5% and 99.8% for IDN and SOC-NAAT, respectively. Thus, our results differ from earlier studies that demonstrated lower sensitivity (55%–84%)Footnote 22Footnote 23. Some recent studies suggest a better performance (86%–100%), although the 95% CI in these latter studies were wider, due to a smaller sample sizeFootnote 22Footnote 23Footnote 24Footnote 25Footnote 26Footnote 27Footnote 28. This discrepancy in sensitivity might be explained by variation in pre-test probability in the target populationFootnote 29 and by our optimized swabbing methodologyFootnote 30. The current study was performed in a group with probable higher viral titers and higher pre-test probability, during a high prevalence wave. A multi-compartment swabbing protocol was also used herein, which included three throat areas and both nostrils, which has been previously shown to be a sensitive alternative to nasopharyngeal swabbingFootnote 31. Another possible explanation is that the SOC-NAAT comparators used in our study are associated with lower analytical sensitivity than other commercial NAATs currently used for the detection of SARS-CoV-2Footnote 18. Indeed, at the Montréal site (data not shown), during the same period, 127 similar individuals (with COVID-19 compatible symptoms) had their ONPS tested by a commercial NAAT: 38 had concordant positive results; 85 had concordant negative results; and four had negative IDN but positive commercial NAAT results (sensitivity of the IDN 90.5%; 95% CI 77.4–97.3).
The discrepant pairs were classified according to their probable clinical stage since later infections with higher Ct values might not represent contagiousnessFootnote 32Footnote 33Footnote 34. We presumed, as a hypothesis for our study, that false negative results would be associated with a lower viral load, with the infected individual being less infectious. Although the timing of the test is important to monitor dynamic viral load, our data confirmed discordant results to be associated with higher Ct, an indirect indicator of viral loadFootnote 35Footnote 36.
The risk of not detecting all cases (or risk of false negative results) can be mitigated by appropriate counselling: automated messages sent with negative results invite people to get retested and seek medical attention if symptoms do not resolve by themselves after 48 hoursFootnote 37Footnote 38. It could also be counterbalanced by the timeliness of the results and the possibility of increasing access to testing by increasing overall laboratory capacity. Although lower IDN sensitivity and missed cases could be deemed obstacles for promoting the technology, we believe otherwise, especially in the context of high vaccination uptake. Clinical sensitivity of a strategy should include analytical sensitivity but also TAT and access to testing. IDN use accelerated contact tracing, and we feel it increased access to testing by offering a less intrusive OBNS sampling and by delocalizing to the point-of-care. In fact, a Québec survey poll showed that half of the eligible population with COVID-19 compatible symptoms did not get tested during the study periodFootnote 39. Rapid testing or more comfortable sampling methods could represent a valuable solutionFootnote 18Footnote 19.
The optimal approach for the diagnosis of COVID-19 remains under debate. Some experts focus on test sensitivity and neglect the public health and population impacts of accelerated contact tracingFootnote 7Footnote 8. Although SOC-NAAT processes are now optimised for high testing volume, laboratory resources are profoundly stretched, particularly with the return to "normal" of healthcare activities. An attractive scenario would be to supply IDN directly to first-line clinics, with clear guidance on whom to test with this strategy (for example, symptomatic individuals and close contacts of positive cases). Cost-effective analysis should be undertaken to better guide Canadian public health specialists, microbiologists, administrators and clinicians.
In our study, results were available faster if samples were tested with IDN vs. SOC-NAAT in all assessment centres, with a faster public health inquiry in Lévis for IDN compared to SOC-NAAT. Although representing different indicators, both are proxies for public health intervention, and congruent in showing a net advantage for IDN. Current public health recommendations are that people with COVID-19 symptoms (and their household contacts in certain high-prevalence regions) should self-isolate from the onset of symptoms. However, no interventions have been made to possible contacts until symptomatic participants have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Without rapid results, public health loses a valuable window of opportunity, particularly if these contacts do not express a typical disease presentation. We can also postulate that adherence to self-isolation is increased when the diagnosis is confirmed.
Strengths and limitations
Among all the similar studies published to date, this PRONTO study has the largest number of participants, even exceeding the total number of participants included in the systematic review by Tu et al.Footnote 24. Being a multi-site study and performed in a real-life setting (e.g. the personnel performing the IDN testing stemmed from diverse training and experience backgrounds), external validity is increased. We were able to collect comparative data as part of the implementation process in overwhelmed walk-in centres and laboratories. We also aimed to document, in two of the sites, the impact of rapid testing on public health. Although a cause-and-effect relationship between IDN use and the impact on transmission to contacts cannot be established, we postulate that faster tracing will benefit public health containment strategiesFootnote 9Footnote 10.
Our study has certain limitations. First, SOC-NAAT differed between laboratories, although adhered to the same validation panels provided by the provincial Public Health Laboratory. Second, very little participant-level data were collected from participating institutions. As such, IDN could not be correlated with the indications for testing, the appropriateness of the test, and the clinical evolution of participants with positive test results. Third, differences in practices within and between walk-in centres (for example different personnel, rapidly changing recommendations over time) may represent confounding variables; for example, by including some asymptomatic participants. Fourth, our diagnostic definition (at least one positive result from the paired samples), which implies 100% specificity of both assays, may have lead to slight overestimation of the sensitivity for both assays. While false positive IDN results are considered unlikelyFootnote 28 compared with the well described false positive laboratory PCR resultsFootnote 40, we suspect two false positive results in our study (Table 5), and we witnessed some infrequent confirmed false positive IDN results in routine care after the end of the study.
Based on our large experience, IDN use in walk-in centres with an optimized sampling method in acute symptomatic participants can be achieved safely without the need for laboratory confirmation of negative results. In this context, IDN can be considered a stand-alone testing option. Such deployment accelerates contact tracing of positive cases and reduces the burden on laboratories, while increasing access to testing.
IGS — Conceived the original idea, acquired the financial support, performed literature searches, drafted the manuscript, review and editing
JL — Conceived the original idea and statistical analysis, performed initial literature searches, wrote the first draft, supervised the project
JD — Conceived the original idea and statistical analysis, performed additional literature searches, drafted the manuscript, performed additional literature searches, performed data curation and statistical analyses, supervised the project
MJW — Collected the data and contributed to laboratory content of the manuscript
FB — Collected the data and contributed to the analysis and data curation
LR — Provided resources, validated methodology and feasibility, supervised the project
JH — Collected the data and contributed to laboratory content of the manuscript
JBS — Collected the data and contributed to laboratory content of the manuscript
MP — Collected the data and contributed to laboratory content of the manuscript
SB — Collected the data and contributed to laboratory content of the manuscript
VD — Collected the data and contributed to laboratory content of the manuscript
ACL — Performed data curation and statistical analyses, performed additional literature searches, drafted the manuscript, visualized data presentation, review and editing, supervised the project
All authors approved the final version to be published and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.
The content and view expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.
We thank all participants, the administrators and personnel of the walk-in centres who took care of them and performed the IDN, and the laboratory technologists who performed the SOC-NAATs for this study.
This PRONTO study received no private funding. The ID NOW kits were provided in-kind from Health Canada, and human resources were funded by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux through the budget of each of the three participating institutions.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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