Field Evaluation of Dried Blood Spots for HIV-1 Viral Load Monitoring in Adults and Children Receiving Antiretroviral Treatment in Kenya: Implications for Scale-up in Resource-Limited Settings

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Abstract

Background:

The World Health Organization recommends viral load (VL) as the preferred method for diagnosing antiretroviral therapy failure; however, operational challenges have hampered the implementation of VL monitoring in most resource-limited settings. This study evaluated the accuracy of dried blood spot (DBS) VL testing under field conditions as a practical alternative to plasma in determining virologic failure (VF).

Methods:

From May to December 2013, paired plasma and DBS specimens were collected from 416 adults and 377 children on antiretroviral therapy for ≥6 months at 12 clinics in Kenya. DBSs were prepared from venous blood (V-DBS) using disposable transfer pipettes and from finger-prick capillary blood using microcapillary tubes (M-DBS) and directly spotting (D-DBS). All samples were tested on the Abbott m2000 platform; V-DBS was also tested on the Roche COBAS Ampliprep/COBAS TaqMan (CAP/CTM) version 2.0 platform. VF results were compared at 3 DBS thresholds (≥1000, ≥3000, and ≥5000 copies/mL) and a constant plasma threshold of ≥1000 copies/mL.

Results:

On the Abbott platform, at ≥1000-copies/mL threshold, sensitivities, specificities, and kappa values for VF determination were ≥88.1%, ≥93.1%, and ≥0.82%, respectively, for all DBS methods, and it had the lowest percentage of downward misclassification compared with higher thresholds. V-DBS performance on CAP/CTM had significantly poorer specificity at all thresholds (1000%–33.0%, 3000%–60.9%, and 5000%–77.0%). No significant differences were found between adults and children.

Conclusions:

VL results from V-DBS, M-DBS, and D-DBS were comparable with those from plasma for determining VF using the Abbott platform but not with CAP/CTM. A 1000-copies/mL threshold was optimal and should be considered for VF determination using DBS in adults and children.

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