Risks of requiring a dedicated molecular specimen for HIV diagnosis and a potential strategy for mitigation

Adam L. Bailey, Neil Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background HIV screening (i.e. antigen/antibody) tests are followed by a supplemental (i.e. antibodyonly) if the screen is positive. Discrepant results can result from two scenarios: a false-positive screening test or acute HIV infection. These scenarios can be distinguished by a molecular HIV test, but due to contamination concerns, our laboratory recently implemented a policy requiring a second specimen dedicated for molecular HIV testing. Our objective was to (1) characterize the effect of this policy on the time-to-diagnosis for patients with discrepant screening and supplemental test results, and (2) explore "strength of positivity"as an interim predictor of screening test accuracy while awaiting confirmatory test results. Methods Data from our laboratory information system, electronic health record, and instrument logs were used to collate data for all HIV testing performed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH) between January 1, 2014 and October 18, 2017. Results Requiring a dedicated specimen for molecular testing significantly increased the time-to-diagnosis for patients with discrepant screening and supplemental HIV tests (p = 0.0084). This policy also contributed to loss-to-followup, with 0/35 discrepant cases lost-to-followup prior to policy implementation compared to 2/10 after implementation. However, by optimizing the signal-tocutoff (S/CO) ratio of the screening test, we were able to more accurately distinguish false-positives from acute-HIV prior to molecular testing (sensitivity of 100%, specificity of 89%). Conclusions We propose utilizing quantitative fourth-generation assay results (S/CO) ratios as a predictor of infection true positivity in situations where the screening assay is reactive but the supplemental test is negative and confirmatory molecular results are not immediately available.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0237580
JournalPloS one
Volume15
Issue number8 August
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

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