Quantification of viral load: clinical relevance for human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infection

Intervirology. 1998;41(1):24-34. doi: 10.1159/000024912.


Quantitative determination of viral load using nucleic acid amplification techniques represents the most accurate prognostic marker for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection, independently of CD4+ cell count. Overall, the different methods for HIV-1 RNA determination (RT-PCR, nucleic acid sequence-based amplification, branched DNA) show a good reproducibility (0.5 log), however for low copy numbers and in HIV-1-infected children the variability may exceed 0.7 log. In non-HIV-1 subtype B infections the copy number is underestimated. While serology permits an accurate follow-up of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, HBV DNA quantification is used for monitoring of antiviral therapy, determination of infectiosity and in combination with serological markers for the resolution of unusual profiles, i.e. isolated anti-HBc reactivity. The prognostic relevance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA determination is of limited value for the long-term prognosis of chronic hepatitis C, however the viral load may predict the outcome of antiviral therapy. Genetic diversity represents a challenge for HCV RNA quantification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Hepatitis B / diagnosis*
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Viral / analysis*


  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral