BACKGROUND: We conducted a prospective study to evaluate methods of detecting clients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) who were acutely coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Lilongwe, Malawi.
METHODS: After informed consent was obtained, all clients with acute STDs were offered voluntary HIV counseling and testing by 2 rapid antibody tests. Samples from rapid test-negative or -discordant subjects were pooled (50 : 5 : 1) and tested for HIV RNA. Western blots were performed on all rapid test-discordant specimens with detectable HIV RNA. A subset of specimens received p24 antigen testing with standard and/or ultrasensitive methods. Patients with possible acute HIV infection were followed to confirm seroconversion.
RESULTS: A total of 1450 clients (34% female and 66% male) agreed to testing, of whom 588 (40.55%) had established HIV infection and 21 (1.45%) had acute infection. Discordant rapid antibody tests identified 7 of 21 (33.3% sensitivity), standard p24 antigen identified 12 of 16 (75% sensitivity), and ultrasensitive p24 antigen identified 15 of 17 (88% sensitivity) acute cases. By definition, the sensitivity of the RNA assay was 100%.
CONCLUSIONS: Real-time pooled RNA testing for the detection of acute HIV infection is feasible in resource-limited settings. However, parallel rapid testing and p24 antigen testing are technologically simpler and together may detect approximately 90% of acute cases.
Fiscus, S.A.; Pilcher, C.D.; Miller, W.C.; Powers, K.A.; Hoffman, I.F.; Price, M.; Chilongozi, C.; Mapanje, R.; Kyrsiak, S.; Gama, S.; Martinson, F.E.A.; Cohen, M.S. Rapid, Real-Time Detection of Acute HIV Infection in Patients in Africa. Journal of Infectious Diseases (2007) 195 (3) 416-424. [DOI: 10.1086/510755]