Measurement of HIV RNA in patients infected by subtype C by assays optimized for subtype B results in an underestimation of the viral load
Gottesman, B.-S.; Grosman, Z.; Lorber, M.; Levi, I.; Shitrit, P.; Mileguir, F.; Gottesman, G.; Chowers, M.Y.
Journal of Medical Virology 73(2): 167-171
ISSN/ISBN: 0146-6615 PMID: 15122788 DOI: 10.1002/jmv.20071
Quantitation assays of HIV-1 RNA used currently were designed and optimized for subtype B viruses. However, infection with non-B HIV viruses has become more common worldwide. Unfortunately, little information is available regarding the suitability of these assays for measurement of viral load in specific non-B subtypes. The performance of two commercial HIV-1 RNA quantitation assays was evaluated in 82 HIV subtype C-infected patients and in 43 HIV-1 subtype B-infected patients. Blood samples were tested by the Amplicor HIV-1 Monitor Assay, Version 1.5, and by the nucleic acid sequence-based amplification HIV-1 assay (NucliSens). The results were compared by using a paired, two-tailed Student's t-test; the difference between the assays was found to be significant only for subtype C. Discordant results (>0.5 log difference) between the two assays were detected in 39% of subtype C samples, compared to 23.2% of subtype B samples. In all cases in which a discordant result was detected, the lower results were obtained by the NucliSens assay. Discordant results between CD4 and viral load (CD4 < 200 cells/ml with a viral load <5,000 copies/ml) were observed in eight of the subtype C-infected patients when a viral load was measured by NucliSens (9.7%), compared to three patients (3.6%) when measured by the Amplicor assay. In conclusion, in patients with HIV subtype C infection, measurement of HIV RNA by the NucliSens assay resulted in a significant underestimation of the viral load as compared to the Amplicor assay. As a consequence, such an underestimation may result in sub-optimal care of patients infected with HIV subtype C.