Objective: To evaluate the use of dried blood spot (DBS) specimens and the early diagnostic value of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for detection of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in DBS specimens collected at predefined age intervals from a large cohort of U.S. infants at risk of congenital or perinatal HIV infection.
Design: We assayed available DBS specimens (n = 272) obtained during the first 4 months of life from 144 infants (41 infected, 103 uninfected) born to HIV-infected mothers enrolled in the Women and Infants Transmission Study. The DBS PCR results were compared with infant HIV infection status, PCR on liquid blood, and viral culture results. Analyses also included sensitivity and specificity of assay as related to the age of the infant when the specimen was obtained.
Results: The DBS specimen PCR results were concordant with results from liquid blood specimens and with results from viral culture. The DBS PCR was highly specific for all age groups. Sensitivity in detecting HIV infection status rapidly increased during the first month of life, from 19% (5/26) by 1 week to 96% (25/26) by 1 month of age. Specimens obtained on the day of birth or the next day were the least likely to have detectable HIV DNA.
Conclusions: The PCR assay of DBS specimens is a reliable tool for the early diagnosis of HIV infection and has important advantage over that of liquid blood DNA PCR and viral culture. These advantages include a lower volume of blood required for testing, increased safety, and ease of storage or transport of specimens. Thus DBS PCR is a useful test for clinical and epidemiologic tracking of infants at risk of HIV infection.