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Replicate Aptima Assay for Quantifying Residual Plasma Viremia in Individuals on Antiretroviral Therapy.


Detection of residual plasma viremia in antiretroviral therapy (ART)-suppressed HIV-infected individuals is critical for characterizing the latent reservoir and evaluating the impact of cure interventions. Ultracentrifugation-based single-copy assays are sensitive but labor intensive. Fully automated replicate testing using a standard clinical viral load assay was evaluated as a high-throughput alternative for the quantification of low-level viremia. Four plasma samples from blood donors with acute HIV-1 infection and one viral culture supernatant were serially diluted into 25-ml samples to nominal viral loads ranging from 39 to <0.5 copies (cp)/ml. Each dilution was tested with 45 replicates (reps) using 0.5 ml/rep with the Aptima HIV-1 Quant assay. The nominal and estimated viral loads based on the single-hit Poisson model were compared, and a hybrid Poisson digital model for calibrated viral load estimation was derived. Testing performed using 45 reps on longitudinal plasma samples from 50 ART-suppressed individuals in the Reservoir Assay Validation and Evaluation Network (RAVEN) study cohort (range of 1 to 19 years of continuous ART suppression) showed a median viral load of 0.54 cp/ml (interquartile range [IQR], 0.22 to 1.46 cp/ml) and a 14% (95% confidence interval [CI], 9% to 19%) decline in viral load for each additional year in duration suppressed. Within the RAVEN cohort, the expected false-negative rate for detection at lower rep numbers using 9 and 18 reps was 26% and 14%, respectively. Residual plasma viremia levels positively correlated with cell-associated HIV RNA and DNA. The performance characteristics of the replicate Aptima assay support its use for quantifying residual plasma viremia to study the latent HIV reservoir and cure interventions.

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