HIV-1 RNA

Specimen:

10 mL blood in plain tube (for serum) or lithium heparin tube (for lymphocytes).

Method:

HIV-1 RNA is amplified and then measured by immunoassay. The result is derived by comparison with standard curves and expressed as viral equivalents (copies)/mL.

Reference Interval:

Method dependent.

Application:

Monitoring the course of HIV infection, including prognosis and response to treatment. CD4 counts are also used to monitor HIV infection; see Lymphocyte immunophenotyping. In neonates, to assess whether HIV antibody is maternally derived or indicates infection.

Interpretation:

The test measures viral load and provides a predictor of disease course and prognosis, independent of CD4 counts. High viral load is associated with a poor prognosis if detected early in the course of the disease. Decreased viral load in response to treatment is associated with an improved long term outcome.

Reference:

Holodniy M. Clin Lab Med. 1994; 14: 335-349.