When searching for a COVID rapid antigen test kit, Roche is probably the first option that will spring to mind.

However, the highly regarded healthcare manufacturers Hughes Group, who describe themselves as a “World-Leading Lateral Flow Test Kit Manufacturer in Europe”, have introduced a COVID rapid test kit by Acon that is available to us as well as the Roche rapid COVID test kit, and at a lower price.

So we now offer both test kits – the Roche kits for those who desire the better-known brand and can afford these more expensive test kits, and then the Hughes Acon ‘Flowflex’ lower cost rapid COVID test kits for those open to a CE Marked alternative and keen to take advantage of the cost-saving that Hughes are offering compared with Roche.

Roche Lateral Flow Rapid COVID Tests compared with Hughes Acon Lateral Flow Rapid COVID Tests

As shown in the table below, the accuracy of both Roche and Hughes COVID SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test Kits, measured by specificity and sensitivity, is very similar:

Specificity Sensitivity
Roche COVID test 99.6% 95.0%*
Hughes COVID test 99.5% 97.1%

*According to the Oxford University report, “It has an overall sensitivity of 76.8% for all PCR positive individuals but detects over 95% of individuals with high viral loads, and minimal difference between the ability of the test to pick up viral antigens in symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.”

The process used is also nearly identical – both use a nose and/or throat swab, and both provide a rapid result within 15-30 minutes, without the need for a lab test and the delay that incurs.

One key difference though is that the Hughes Acon rapid covid tests require a nasal (nose) swab only, whereas the Roche rapid covid tests require a full nasopharyngeal (nose and throat) swab, which is a less pleasant experience than a nose-only swab.

Both brands of test kit have re-assuring levels of certification and approval – the Roche test kits are CE marked, and the Hughes test kits also have the approval of an NHS trust for use in the UK.

The main difference is the price – if buying in high volume, the Hughes lateral flow COVID test kits are nearly half the price of the Roche alternative test kits.  And even if buying just 1 pack of 25 test kits, you still save yourself £50+VAT with the Hughes Flowflex option.

Full Comparison Between 5 Leading Rapid COVID Test Kit Manufacturers

In our drive to source the best COVID rapid test kits available, we analysed study data comparing the 5 main test kit manufacturers.

The comparative study information is laid out in the table below:

Company Test Study Swab Method PPA NPA Positive sample size No of Lysis bottles per box
Abbott Diagnostics Panbio Covid-19 Ag Rapid Test Device Norway Akra Nasopharyngeal 74.40% 99.90% 250 2
Abbott Diagnostics Panbio Covid-19 Ag Rapid Test Device Mexican Study Nasopharyngeal & Oropharyngeal 85% 99% 78 2
Abbott Diagnostics Panbio Covid-19 Ag Rapid Test Device Norway Outbreaks Nasopharyngeal 70% 100% 60 2
Hughes Healthcare CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test San Diego, USA Nasal 97.05% 99.58% 136 25
Hughes Healthcare CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test Hangzhou, China Nasal 97.00% 99.60% 34 25
Innova Biotime Oxford SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test PHE Porton Down Nasal 79.20% 99.68% 197 2
Innova Biotime Oxford SARS-CoV-2-Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test Birmingham University Nasal 57.50% 99.60% 372 2
Innova Biotime Oxford SARS-CoV-2-Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test Liverpool University Nasal 48.89% 99.93% 45 2
SD Biosensor Standard Q Covid-19 AgTest German Study Nasopharyngeal& Oropharyngeal 76.60% 99.30% 47 25
SD Biosensor Standard Q Covid-19 AgTest Mexican Study Nasopharyngeal & Oropharyngeal 93.12% 100% 160 25
SD Biosensor Standard Q Covid-19 AgTest Brazilian Study Nasopharyngeal 88.70% 97.60% 106 25
Surescreen Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test Nasopharyngeal & Oropharyngeal 93.33% 100% 55 2

A 3rd even more affordable rapid COVID test kit option

On the subject of rapid covid test kit prices, it is not appropriate to only include Hughes Acon test kits and Roche Diagnostics test kits in the comparison.

Lower priced options are also for sale in the UK and across Europe, some of which offer the same or better levels of specificity, sensitivity, and accuracy as the Roche and Hughes Healthcare options.

Consequently, we have added an ultra-low-cost rapid covid test kit to our range, the Swiss Point Of Care option.

The main reason for the very low cost of the Swiss Point of Care coronavirus tests is they have a separate bottle of buffer fluid, the vials are not prefilled.

The Hughes and Roche test kits both have pre-filled buffer-solution vials, so are slightly more convenient to use, but for those wanting to keep costs to a minimum, the Swiss Point of Care test kits are an attractive option to buy.

Encompass are a UK distributor of the Swiss Point Of Care test kits, click here to buy these from our online shop.