No Time to Delay! Fiebig Stages and Referral in Acute HIV infection: Seattle Primary Infection Program Experience

AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2018 Aug;34(8):657-666. doi: 10.1089/AID.2017.0276. Epub 2018 Jun 13.


There has been increasing recognition of the importance of diagnosing individuals during the earliest stages of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Sera from individuals referred to a primary HIV infection research program were screened using the IgG-sensitive Vironostika HIV-1 Microelisa System, IgG/IgM-sensitive GS HIV-1/HIV-2 Plus O antibody enzyme immunoassay (EIA), or Abbott ARCHITECT HIV antigen (Ag)/antibody (Ab) Combo assay and confirmed by the Bio-Rad Multispot and Western blot. A subset of participants was co-enrolled in a study designed to compare the ability of point-of-care tests to detect early infection. We calculated time within primary infection laboratory stages using actual observed transitions and with an expectation-maximization algorithm. Three hundred and sixty participants contributed data to this analysis. Of 123 persons referred with EIA-negative/RNA-positive test results (Fiebig stage I-II) or for concern for symptoms, 24 (20%) were still in stages I-II, and 99 (80%) were in stages III or later at their screening visit. Participants were estimated to spend a median of 13.5 days in stages I and II, 2.3 days in stage III, and 7.8 days in stage IV. OraQuick performed on oral fluids detected 53% of 17 participants in stage V. The durations of stages we observed are consistent with previous publications. Most persons referred for research no longer had acute infection at their first visit. Programs wishing to identify persons in the very earliest stages of infection need to expedite referrals or develop targeted screening programs.

Keywords: Fiebig staging; HIV testing; acute HIV infection.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Viral / blood*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic Services / organization & administration*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / methods
  • Female
  • HIV Antibodies / blood*
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification*
  • HIV-2 / genetics
  • HIV-2 / immunology
  • HIV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Time Factors
  • Washington
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, Viral
  • HIV Antibodies
  • RNA, Viral