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Rapid, Fully Automated Digital Immunoassay For P24 Protein With The Sensitivity Of Nucleic Acid Amplification For Detecting Acute HIV Infection

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Clinical Chemistry | September 14, 2015

Cabrera C, Chang L, Stone M, Busch M, Wilson DH.
Clinical Chemistry
DOI: 10.1373/clinchem.2015.243287

Background: Nucleic acid testing (NAT) has become the standard for high sensitivity in detecting low levels of virus. However, adoption of NAT can be cost prohibitive in low-resource settings where access to extreme sensitivity could be clinically advantageous for early detection of infection. We report development and preliminary validation of a simple, low-cost, fully automated digital p24 antigen immunoassay with the sensitivity of quantitative NAT viral load (NAT-VL) methods for detection of acute HIV infection.

Methods: We developed an investigational 69-min immunoassay for p24 capsid protein for use on a novel digital analyzer on the basis of single-molecule-array technology. We evaluated the assay for sensitivity by dilution of standardized preparations of p24, cultured HIV, and preseroconversion samples. We characterized analytical performance and concordance with 2 NAT-VL methods and 2 contemporary p24 Ag/Ab combination immunoassays with dilutions of viral isolates and samples from the earliest stages of HIV infection.

Results: Analytical sensitivity was 0.0025 ng/L p24, equivalent to 60 HIV RNA copies/mL. The limit of quantification was 0.0076 ng/L, and imprecision across 10 runs was <10% for samples as low as 0.09 ng/L. Clinical specificity was 95.1%. Sensitivity concordance vs NAT-VL on dilutions of preseroconversion samples and Group M viral isolates was 100%.

Conclusions: The digital immunoassay exhibited >4000-fold greater sensitivity than contemporary immunoassays for p24 and sensitivity equivalent to that of NAT methods for early detection of HIV. The data indicate that NAT-level sensitivity for acute HIV infection is possible with a simple, low-cost digital immunoassay.