Comparison of five commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and western immunoblotting for human immunodeficiency virus antibody detection in serum samples from Central Africa

F. Behets, A. Disasi, R. W. Ryder, K. Bishagara, P. Piot, M. Kashamuka, M. Kamenga, N. Nzila, M. Laga, G. Vercauteren, V. Batter, C. Brown, Thomas C Quinn

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Detection by five different enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) of antibody to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in sera from three Zairian populations consisting of 1,998 individuals with various risks for HIV infection was evaluated. Sera that were reactive by at least one assay and 10% of the nonreactive serum samples were analyzed by Western blot (immunoblot) by using U.S. Public Health Service interpretation criteria. Sera which were positive by ELISA for detection of antibody to HIV-1 and HIV-2 and negative or indeterminate by HIV-1 Western blot were also analyzed by HIV-2 Western blot. Overall, 443 (22.2%) serum specimens were HIV-1 Western blot positive, 390 (19.5%) had indeterminate HIV-1 Western blot patterns, and no samples were HIV-2 Western blot positive. The sensitivity of the ELISAs ranged from 97.5 to 99.8%, and the specificity ranged from 51.7 to 98.4%. By population group, the negative predictive value ranged from 97.1 to 100%, in contrast to the positive predictive value, which varied from 6.6 to 100%. Follow-up results for sera which were indeterminate for antibody to HIV-1 documented only four seroconversions (6.0%) among 67 individuals at high risk for HIV-1 infection and no seroconversions among 202 individuals at relatively low risk for HIV-1 infection. This study demonstrates the importance of evaluating commercial ELISAs with sera from appropriate geographical regions in order to select the most cost-effective and practical assay for use in that region. Furthermore, the high frequency of indeterminate Western blots for African sera emphasizes the continual need for improved confirmatory assays and interpretation criteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2280-2284
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1991


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology

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