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J Clin Microbiol. 1998 Mar;36(3):716-20.

Clinical comparison of an enhanced-sensitivity branched-DNA assay and reverse transcription-PCR for quantitation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 RNA in plasma.

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Department of Pathology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


The performance characteristics of an enhanced-sensitivity branched-DNA assay (bDNA) (Quantiplex HIV-1 version 2.0; Chiron Corp., Emeryville, Calif.) and a reverse transcription (RT)-PCR assay (AMPLICOR HIV-1 Monitor; Roche Diagnostic Systems, Inc., Branchburg, N.J.) were compared in a molecular diagnostic laboratory. Samples used in this evaluation included linearity and reproducibility panels made by dilution of a human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) stock culture of known virus particle count in HIV-1-negative plasma, a subtype panel consisting of HIV-1 subtypes A through F at a standardized level, and 64 baseline plasma specimens from HIV-1-infected individuals. Plots of log10 HIV RNA copies per milliliter versus log10 nominal virus particles per milliliter demonstrated that both assays were linear over the stated dynamic ranges (bDNA, r = 0.98; RT-PCR, r = 0.99), but comparison of the slopes of the regression lines (bDNA, m = 0.96; RT-PCR, m = 0.83) suggested that RT-PCR had greater proportional systematic error. The between-run coefficients of variation for bDNA and RT-PCR were 24.3 and 34.3%, respectively, for a sample containing 1,650 nominal virus particles/ml and 44.0 and 42.7%, respectively, for a sample containing 165 nominal virus particles/ml. Subtypes B, C, and D were quantitated with similar efficiencies by bDNA and RT-PCR; however, RT-PCR was less efficient in quantitating subtypes A, E, and F. One non-B subtype was recognized in our clinical specimens based on the ratio of values obtained with the two methods. HIV-1 RNA was quantitated in 53 (83%) baseline plasma specimens by bDNA and in 55 (86%) specimens by RT-PCR. RT-PCR values were consistently greater than bDNA values, with population means of 142,419 and 67,580 copies/ml, respectively (P < 0.01). The results were highly correlated (r = 0.91), but the agreement was poor (mean difference in log10 copies per milliliter +/- 2 standard deviations, 0.45 +/- 0.61) for the 50 clinical specimens that gave discrete values with both methods.

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