A current concept of the serological response to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in humans is that antibodies to core antigens (p55, p24, and p15) are detectable earlier during initial stages of antibody production than antibodies against envelope antigens (gp160, gp120, and gp41). Comparative studies of Western blot (immunoblot), radioimmunoprecipitation assay (RIPA), and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) during initial antibody production are limited to case reports and have not resolved the issue. Thirty of the 37 participants who are part of a prospective study had at least one specimen that was negative for anti-gp41 but had one or more other bands on Western blot. Twenty-seven of these 30 specimens were reactive for anti-gp120/160 in the RIPA. Of the same 30 specimens, kits from Bionetics identified 2 (7%), ElectroNucleonics 4 (13%), Abbott 13 (43%), Du Pont 25 (83%), and Genetic Systems 25 (83%). All participants had evidence of serological progression by Western blot, including a gp41 band, on subsequent visits; the ELISA kits of all manufacturers identified these later specimens with greater accuracy. These data show that the RIPA detects anti-envelope antibodies that may be not detectable by Western blot and that the production of anti-envelope antibodies approximately parallels the production of anti-core antibodies. The false-negative results by ELISA would permit transmission of HIV by blood transfusion from donors in early stages of infection. The sensitivity of licensed ELISA kits should be improved to identify antibody as soon as possible after infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)