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Transmission of HIV-1 in infants born to seropositive mothers: PCR-amplified proviral DNA detected by flow cytometric analysis of immunoreactive beads.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco, 94143, USA.


The diagnosis of HIV infection in newborns is established by amplification of proviral DNA using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We developed a nonisotopic method for heminested PCR using a biotinylated primer among sets of three oligonucleotides, each selected from the HIV long terminal repeat (LTR) and gag sequences. An internal probe incorporating digoxigenin-dUTP was also synthesized by PCR. The PCR products, hybridized with LTR region or gag region probes, were captured with streptavidin-coated magnetic beads and detected by fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled antidigoxigenin in flow cytometric analysis. This immunoreactive bead assay (PCR-IRB) detected about three copies of HIV proviral DNA. A panel of 50 coded DNA specimens of infants previously assayed by conventional PCR and with known clinical results revealed that the PCR-IRB findings using LTR, but not gag, were in agreement. A double-blind prospective study of blood samples from 14 mother-infant pairs using the PCR-IRB amplification of LTR gave results similar to the commercial Amplicor HIV-1 PCR test and were consistent with the clinical outcomes. PCR-IRB results were positive for 11 mothers and three infants, one at birth, one at 2 weeks after birth, and one at 8 weeks after birth. PCR-IRB is a simple, reliable, specific, and automatable assay useful in the early diagnosis of perinatal HIV infection in clinical practice and regional screening programs.

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