Dried blood spots for HIV-1 drug resistance and viral load testing: A review of current knowledge and WHO efforts for global HIV drug resistance surveillance

AIDS Rev. 2010 Oct-Dec;12(4):195-208.


HIV-1 drug resistance genotyping is an essential component of the World Health Organization global HIV Drug Resistance (HIVDR) prevention and assessment strategy. Plasma is considered to be the most appropriate specimen type for HIV-1 drug resistance genotyping. However, use of plasma may not be feasible in rural, remote areas in resource-limited settings since its preparation and storage requires personnel and laboratory infrastructure that is often lacking. An alternative specimen type for HIVDR genotyping is dried blood spots (DBS). DBS can be made from blood drawn for routine clinical or surveillance purposes without special laboratory processing. The filter paper used is relatively inexpensive, easily obtained and stored, and although procedures for making DBS must be followed precisely, the training required is less intensive than that required for plasma separation. HIV nucleic acids are generally stable over long periods of time and freezing is not required unless storage over two weeks is planned. In addition, DBS are more easily transported than plasma because they can be shipped as non-hazardous materials using regular mail or courier services. Many studies have reported the successful genotyping of HIV-1 from DBS and some have shown a high genotypic concordance with plasma genotypes despite potential DNA interferences. During the past few years DBS have started to be widely used for HIV-1 drug resistance testing, and an increased number of reports from resource-limited areas have indicated DBS as the preferred specimen type for transmitted HIV-1 drug resistance surveillance where plasma collection is not feasible. The World Health Organization has brought together a group of experts (WHO HIVResNet DBS working group) to review current data on DBS preparation, storage, and transport conditions, and provide a reference protocol, which is also summarized in this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacology
  • Blood Specimen Collection / methods*
  • Drug Resistance, Viral / genetics*
  • Genotype
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV-1 / drug effects*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / physiology
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Viral Load*
  • World Health Organization


  • Anti-HIV Agents