Cost-effective HIV-1 virological monitoring in resource-limited settings using a modified commercially available qPCR RNA assay

Jayaseelan Boobalan, Andrea Torti, Thongadi Ramesh Dinesha, Sunil Solomon, Pachamuthu Balakrishnan, Shanmugam Saravanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Virological monitoring through plasma viral load (PVL) quantification is essential for clinical management of HIV patients undergoing antiretroviral treatment (ART), and for detecting treatment failure. Quantitative PCR (qPCR)-based tests are the gold standard for measuring PVL. Largely because of their high cost, however, implementation of these tests in low- and middle-income countries fails to cover the testing demand. In this study, we aimed at reducing the running cost of the commercially available Abbott RealTime™ HIV-1 assay by minimizing the reagent consumption. To this end, a modified version of the assay was obtained by reducing the assay's reagents volume to about a half, and validated using a panel of 104 plasma samples. Compared to the standard version, the modified Abbott assay allowed for a 50% reduction in running costs. At the same time, it showed a 100% concordance in identifying samples with detectable viral load, strong correlation (Pearson's r = 0.983, P < 0.0001), and a high agreement between PVL values (mean percent difference between PVL values ± standard deviation = 0.76 ± 3.18%). In detecting viral failure (PVL > 1000 copies mL−1), the modified assay showed a sensitivity of 94.6%, a specificity of 93.8%, and a negative and positive predictive values of 93.8% and 94.6%, respectively. The modified assay therefore reliably quantifies PVL, predicts viral failure, and allows for a ca. 50% reduction in the assay's running costs. It may thus be implemented as an ART monitoring tool in resource-limited settings and for research purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-76
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Virological Methods
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Abbott RealTime
  • ART monitoring
  • Cost-effective assay
  • HIV-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology

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