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J Clin Microbiol. 1990 Jan;28(1):16-9.

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 detected in all seropositive symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis 55455.


Between February 1987 and October 1988, peripheral mononuclear blood cells (PBMC) from 409 adult individuals antibody positive by Western (immuno-)blot for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) (56 acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS] patients, 88 patients with AIDS-related complex, and 265 asymptomatic individuals) were consecutively cultured for HIV-1 or tested for the presence of HIV-1 DNA sequences by a polymerase chain reaction assay (PCR). We isolated HIV-1 or detected HIV-1 DNA sequences from the PBMC of all 409 HIV-1 antibody-positive individuals. None of 131 healthy HIV-1 antibody-negative individuals were HIV-1 culture positive, nor were HIV-1 DNA sequences detected by PCR in the blood specimens of 43 seronegative individuals. In addition, HIV-1 PCR and HIV-1 culture were compared in testing the PBMC of 59 HIV-1 antibody-positive and 20 HIV-1 antibody-negative hemophiliacs. Both methods were found to have sensitivities and specificities of at least 97 and 100%, respectively. In contrast, the sensitivities of serum HIV-1 antigen testing in AIDS patients and asymptomatic seropositive patients were 42 and 17%, respectively. Our ability to directly demonstrate HIV-1 infection in all HIV-1 antibody-positive individuals provides definitive support that HIV-1 antibody positivity is associated with present HIV-1 infection. Moreover, the sensitivities and specificities of PCR and culture for the detection of HIV-1 appear to be equivalent, and both methods are superior to testing for HIV-1 antigen in serum for the direct detection of HIV-1.

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