The significance of western blot assays indeterminate for antibody to HIV in a cohort of Homosexual/Bisexual Men

John Phillip Phair*, Don Hoover, Jay Huprikar, Roger Detels, Richard Kaslow, Charles Rinaldo, Alfred Saah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to determine the frequency and significance of nondiagnostic Western blot (WB) assays in homosexual/bisexual men at risk of infection with HIV-1. The presence of a positive enzyme-linked antibody assay (EIA) confirmed by a positive WB was used as evidence of infection and seroconversion. Indeterminate WB assays were defined as reactions to only one viral gene product of HIV-1. Three analyses were conducted to (a) determine the frequency of such reactions in men who, during a 4-year period, did not develop diagnostic serologic reactions; (b) determine, retrospectively, the preseroconversion frequency of indeterminate WB assays in 286 men who seroconverted; and (c) evaluate in vitro production of specific antibody by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) as a method of indicating whether or not an indeterminate WB assay represents HIV-1 infection. Reactions to products of gag, pol, or env were noted in 8.0, 4.0, and 6.7% of 1, 595 first-visit tests of men who remained seronegative for 4 years. Indeterminate reactions occurred in 204 men with negative EIAs who subsequently seroconverted and in 82 men with positive EIAs preconversion. Supernatants harvested from PBMCs of 2 of 36 seroconverters obtained one or two visits preseroconversion and cultured with pokeweed mitogen were antibody-positive. All were positive at the visit, with diagnostic serology. None of the supernatants from cells of 19 men with EIA-negative WB-indeterminate serologie assays were antibody-positive. Our results suggest that persistently EIA-negative homosexual/bisexual men who have indeterminate WB assays are unlikely to be infected with HIV-1. In contrast, EIA-positive, WB-indeterminate serologie assays in this cohort were frequently associated with subsequent seroconversion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)988-992
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992


  • HIV seroconversion
  • Western blot assays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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