Title: In-house HIV-1 RNA real-time reverse transcription PCR assays: principle, available tests and usefulness in developing countries
Authors: Rouet F, Menan H, Viljoen J, Ngo Giang Huong N, Mandaliya K, Valea D, Xuan L, Danaviah S, Rousset D, Ganon A and Nerrienet E.
Journal: Expert Review of Molecular Diagnostics,8(5):635-650 (2008)


The principle of currently available licensed HIV-1 RNA assays is based on real-time technologies that continuously monitor the fluorescence emitted by the amplification products. Besides these assays, in-house quantitative (q) real-time reverse transcription (RT)-PCR (RT-qPCR) tests have been developed and evaluated particularly in developing countries, for two main reasons.

First, affordable and generalized access to HIV-1 RNA viral load is urgently needed in the context of expected universal access to prevention and antiretroviral treatment programs in these settings. Second, since many non-B subtypes, circulating recombinant forms and unique recombinant forms circulate in these areas, in-house HIV-1 RNA RT-qPCR assays are ideal academic tools to thoroughly evaluate the impact of HIV-1 genetic diversity on the accuracy of HIV-1 RNA quantification, as compared with licensed techniques.

To date, at least 15 distinct in-house assays have been designed. They differ by their chemistry and the HIV-1 target sequence (located in gag, Pol-IN or LTR gene). Analytical performances of the tests that have been extensively evaluated appear at least as good as (or even better than) those of approved assays, with regard to HIV-1 strain diversity. Their clinical usefulness has been clearly demonstrated for early diagnosis of pediatric HIV-1 infection and monitoring of highly active antiretroviral therapy efficacy.

The LTR-based HIV-1 RNA RT-qPCR assay has been evaluated by several groups under the auspices of the Agence Nationale de Recherches sur le SIDA et les hépatites virales B et C. It exists now as a complete standardized commercial test.