Bean Extract-Based Gargle for Efficient Diagnosis of Active COVID-19 Infection Using Rapid Antigen Tests

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The antigen-based rapid diagnostic test (Ag-RDT) using saliva specimens is fast, noninvasive, and suitable for SARS-CoV-2 self-testing, unlike nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) testing. We evaluated a novel Beanguard gargle (BG)-based virus collection method that can be applied to Ag-RDT as an alternative to the current RT-PCR with an NPS for early diagnosis of COVID-19. This clinical trial comprised 102 COVID-19-positive patients hospitalized after a governmental screening process and 100 healthy individuals. Paired NPS and BG-based saliva specimens from COVID-19 patients and healthy individuals were analyzed using NPS-RT-PCR, BG-RT-PCR, and BG-Ag-RDTs, whose diagnostic performance for detecting SARS-CoV-2 was compared. BG-Ag-RDTs showed high sensitivity (97.8%) and specificity (100%) in 45 patients within 6 days of illness and detected all cases of SARS-CoV-2 Alpha and Delta variants.

In 11 asymptomatic active COVID-19 cases, both BG-Ag-RDTs and BG-RT-PCR showed sensitivities and specificities of 100%. Sensitivities of BG-Ag-RDT and BG-RT-PCR toward salivary viral detection were highly concordant, with no discrimination between symptomatic (97.0%), asymptomatic (100%), or SARS-CoV-2 variant (100%) cases. The intermolecular interactions between SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins and truncated canavalin, an active ingredient from the bean extract (BE), were observed in terms of physicochemical properties. The detachment of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain from hACE2 increased as the BE concentration increased, allowing the release of the virus from hACE2 for early diagnosis. Using BG-based saliva specimens remarkably enhances the Ag-RDT diagnostic performance as  indicaid covid-19 rapid antigen test accuracyan alternative to NPS and enables noninvasive, rapid, and accurate COVID-19 self-testing and mass screening, supporting efficient COVID-19 management

An Ag-RDT is less likely to be accepted as an initial test method for early diagnosis owing to its low sensitivity.

  • However, our self-collection method, Ag-RDT using BG-based saliva specimens, showed significantly enhanced detection sensitivity and specificity toward SARS-CoV-2 including the Alpha and Delta variants in all patients tested within 6 days of illness.
  • The method represents an attractive alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs for the early diagnosis of symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.
  • The evidence suggests that the method could have a potential for mass screening and monitoring of COVID-19 cases.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which started in December 2019, has been posing significant challenges to the health care system worldwide.
  • As the pandemic spreads with rapidly increasing number of positive cases, early diagnosis of infected patients is crucial to successfully limit the spread of the virus. Although the real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is the recommended laboratory method to diagnose COVID-19 infection, many factors such as availability of laboratory equipment, reagents and trained personnel affect the use of time-consuming molecular techniques.
  • To facilitate on-the-spot diagnosis of COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen tests were developed by several different manufacturers. The evaluation of such rapid tests is particularly important due to the recent unanimous agreement by the European Commission Member States on a recommendation setting out a framework for the use of antigen rapid tests that contains a list of the mutually recognized assays and the basis of independent validation protocols.
  • To evaluate the on-field performance of ten commercially available SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid tests (CLINITEST Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test, GenBody COVID-19 Antigen Test, GENEDIA W COVID-19 Ag Test, Healgen Coronavirus Antigen Rapid Test, Humasis COVID-19 Ag Test, VivaDiag SARS-CoV-2 Ag Rapid Test, Helix i-SARS-CoV-2 Ag Rapid Test, Roche SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Test, Abbot COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test and Vazyme SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Detection Kit) and compare with RT-qPCR as a reference method, the Hungarian National Public Health Center provided 1,597 antigen rapid tests to the National Ambulance Service, COVID-testing trucks and two hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.
  • Sensitivity, specificity and accuracy were determined by performing the rapid test directly from nasopharyngeal swab samples of symptomatic individuals. For strongly positive samples (Ct < 25) sensitivities ranged between 66.7% and 100%, while for positive samples (Ct < 30) they gave a maximum sensitivity of 87.5%. The specificity of the tests was ranging between 79% to 100%.
  • The results presented here are of high importance to the European Commission and also help governmental decision-making regarding the application of the proper rapid tests for screening different at-risk populations. Nonetheless, SARS-Cov-2 rapid tests play an important role in early and on-the-spot diagnosis of potentially infected individuals.

Appropriate isolation guidelines for COVID-19 patients are warranted. Currently, isolating for fixed time is adapted in most countries.

However, given the variability in viral dynamics between patients, some patients may no longer be infectious by the end of isolation (thus they are redundantly isolated), whereas others may still be infectious. Utilizing viral test results to determine ending isolation would minimize both the risk of ending isolation of infectious patients and the burden due to redundant isolation of noninfectious patients. In our previous study, we proposed a computational framework using SARS-CoV-2 viral dynamics models to compute the risk and the burden of different isolation guidelines with PCR tests.

In this study, we extend the computational framework to design isolation guidelines for COVID-19 patients utilizing rapid antigen tests. Time interval of tests and number of consecutive negative tests to minimize the risk and the burden of isolation were explored. Furthermore, the approach was extended for asymptomatic cases. We found the guideline should be designed considering various factors: the infectiousness threshold values, the detection limit of antigen tests, symptom presence, and an acceptable level of releasing infectious patients. Especially, when detection limit is higher than the infectiousness threshold values, more consecutive negative results are needed to ascertain loss of infectiousness.

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To control the risk of releasing of infectious individuals under certain levels, rapid antigen tests should be designed to have lower detection limits than infectiousness threshold values to minimize the length of prolonged isolation, and the length of prolonged isolation increases when the detection limit is higher than the infectiousness threshold values, even though the guidelines are optimized for given conditions.

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