As far as I know, SARS-CoV-2 tests currently used worldwide are real-time RT-PCR. Why there is no ELISA for SARS-CoV-2?

Compared to PCRs, ELISA is:

  1. Way cheaper;
  2. Way faster;
  3. Does not require trained technicians or complex equipment.
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Because the virus is spreading for only a short time? $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 1, 2020 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, @Chris has a point. While the test itself is easier to perform, the production and purification and labeling of antibodies for tests such as the ELISA does take some time. $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2020 at 13:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Marion Koopmans and Florian Krammer both have preview papers describing SARS-CoV-2 ELISAs. There simply hasn't been enough time to prepare antigens, validate ELISAs, publish papers, and manufacture tests. I think this question will be out of date in a few days or weeks, so maybe isn't a good match for SE, where answers are expected to be useful to other people in the future $\endgroup$
    – iayork
    Apr 1, 2020 at 15:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Another preprint (posted yesterday): Evaluation of antibody testing for SARS-Cov-2 using ELISA and lateral flow immunoassays $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2020 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @iayork The fundamental question is good for future use and probably reapplicable, and it is good to have a record of why this wasn't possible at a moment in time, and indeed this is a timely question. I would say that this argument requires a bit of editing to the question semantically and a lab-techniques label. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:02

2 Answers 2


I agree with @mpprogram6771 and @iayork. Development of ELISA kits consumes more time to develop and validate - the first on the market last year were not recommendable.

Now a variety of immunoglobuin SARS-CoV-2 ELISA kits are available. Mainly using IgG or IgM - IgM to detect early signs of infection, IgG for long term response. Eg: here


once you are comparing ELISA with RT-PCR i will assume we are speaking about antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2. In that sense, we can note that whichever type of ELISA chosen, all of them will depend on the Ig specificity for the virus antigen. enter image description here therefore, the main reason has to do with the fact that

mutation regions in the virus appear mainly in the spike protein, we do not know whether the antibodies produced against the original spike protein can recognize the new variant spike proteins. article


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