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J Virol Methods. 2011 Aug;175(2):261-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2011.04.015. Epub 2011 Apr 22.

Modification of the Abbott RealTime assay for detection of HIV-1 plasma RNA viral loads less than one copy per milliliter.

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San Francisco VA Medical Center, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA.


Although commercial tests are approved for detection of HIV-1 plasma viral loads ≥ 20 copies per milliliter (ml), only one specialized research assay has been reported to detect plasma viral loads as low as 1 copy/ml. This manuscript describes a method of concentrating HIV-1 virions from up to 30 ml of plasma, which can be combined with a commercial viral load test to create a widely available, reproducible assay for quantifying plasma HIV RNA levels less than 1 copy/ml. Using this pre-analytically modified assay, samples with a known level of 0.5 copy/ml were detected in 8 of 12 replicates (mean 0.47 copy/ml; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.14-0.81 copy/ml) and samples with a known level of 1.0 copy/ml were detected in 13 of 13 replicates (mean 1.96 copy/ml; 95% CI 1.42-2.50 copy/ml). By concentrating virus from 30 ml of plasma, HIV RNA could be measured in 16 of 19 samples (84%) from 12 of 12 subjects (mean 2.77 copy/ml; 95% CI 0.86-4.68 copy/ml). The measured viral load correlated inversely (r = -0.78; p = 0.028) with the total duration of viral suppression (viral load<40 copies/ml).

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