Higher cryptococcal antigen (CrAg) titers are strongly associated with mortality risk in individuals with HIV-associated cryptococcal disease. Rapid tests to quantify CrAg levels may provide important prognostic information and enable treatment stratification. We performed a laboratory-based validation of the IMMY semiquantitative cryptococcal antigen (CrAgSQ) lateral flow assay (LFA) against the current gold standard CrAg tests. We assessed the diagnostic accuracy of the CrAgSQ in HIV-positive individuals undergoing CrAg screening, determined the relationship between CrAgSQ scores and dilutional CrAg titers, assessed interrater reliability, and determined the clinical correlates of CrAgSQ scores. A total of 872 plasma samples were tested using both the CrAgSQ LFA and the conventional IMMY CrAg LFA, of which 692 were sequential samples from HIV-positive individuals undergoing CrAg screening and an additional 180 were known CrAg-positive plasma samples archived from prior studies. Interrater agreement in CrAgSQ reading was excellent (98.17% agreement, Cohen's kappa 0.962, P < 0.001). Using the IMMY CrAg LFA as a reference standard, CrAgSQ was 93.0% sensitive (95% confidence interval [CI] 80.9% to 98.5%) and 93.8% specific (95% CI, 91.7% to 95.6%). After reclassification of discordant results using CrAg enzyme immunoassay testing, the sensitivity was 98.1% (95% CI, 90.1% to 100%) and specificity 95.8% (95% CI, 93.9% to 97.2%). The median CrAg titers for semiquantitative score categories (1+ to 4+) were 1:10 (interquartile range [IQR], 1:5 to 1:20) in the CrAgSQ 1+ category, 1:40 (IQR, 1:20 to 1:80) in the CrAgSQ 2+ category, 1:640 (IQR, 1:160 to 1:2,560) in the CrAgSQ 3+ category, and 1:5,120 (IQR, 1:2,560 to 1:30,720) in the CrAgSQ 4+ category. Increasing CrAgSQ scores were strongly associated with 10-week mortality. The IMMY CrAgSQ test had high sensitivity and specificity compared to the results for the IMMY CrAg LFA and provided CrAg scores that were associated with both conventional CrAg titers and clinical outcomes.
Keywords: Cryptococcal meningitis; HIV; cryptococcal antigen; diagnostic accuracy; lateral flow assay; validation study.
Copyright © 2020 Jarvis et al.