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Diagnosis of vertical HIV-1 transmission using the polymerase chain reaction and dried blood spot specimens.

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Federal Centre For AIDS, Health and Welfare Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.


We have used the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect HIV proviral sequences in minute amounts of peripheral blood collected onto newborn screening blotters. Forty-three newborns, infants, and children of HIV-infected mothers were serially studied: dried blood spot (DBS) specimens were processed for PCR; serum was assayed for HIV antibodies, p24 antigen, and immunoglobulins; mononuclear cells were cultured and CD4 cells were quantitated by immunofluorescence. There was excellent agreement between the results of blood spot PCR, viral culture, and clinical and immunological indicators of HIV infection. Eighteen of 19 infected children tested positive by both PCR and culture, including six asymptomatic infants who were less than 10 weeks of age. As expected, p24 antigen capture assays were insensitive, detecting only 13 of the 19 infected children. One infected infant tested positive by PCR, but negative by culture and antigen. This infant was seropositive at 27 months and had pronounced hypergammaglobulinemia in association with non-specific symptoms. Twenty-four of the 43 infants were asymptomatic with normal immune profiles, declining antibody levels and no evidence of infection. These children tested repeatedly negative by PCR, culture, and p24 antigen assays. Our results indicate that DBS PCR is a sensitive, specific, and cost-effective alternative to viral culture for the early diagnosis (or exclusion) of perinatal HIV infection. DBS sampling opens the way for large-scale prospective studies to determine the exact rates of vertical HIV transmission in industrialized, as well as, nonindustrialized countries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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