The polymerase chain reaction in the diagnosis of vertically transmitted HIV infection.
Williams P., Simmonds P., Yap PL., Balfe P., Bishop J., Brettle R., Hague R., Hargreaves D., Inglis J., Brown AL.
The presence of HIV-1 DNA sequences in DNA from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was investigated in a two-stage polymerase chain reaction ('double' PCR) using four sets of nested primers. The PBMCs tested were obtained from 46 children born to HIV-seropositive mothers, seven 'control' children born to HIV-seronegative mothers and seropositive fathers, and 45 healthy adult blood donors who were HIV seronegative. Nine of the children had symptomatic HIV infection and other laboratory features characteristic of HIV infection: all nine were PCR-positive with each set of primers in each of their 22 blood samples tested. The remaining 44 children had no clinical or laboratory evidence of HIV infection, and each of their 50 samples was PCR-negative with each set of primers, as were all blood donor samples. PCR-positive samples were tested in more detail using two of the sets of primers, which spanned hypervariable regions in the env gene. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of DNA amplified from these regions yielded patterns of amplified DNA length variation which were characteristic for each child, and which changed little with time (in serial samples obtained over periods of 3-7 months). This excluded contamination as a cause of PCR positivity. This is the first report of the use of a double PCR for the diagnosis of HIV infection. The results demonstrate the specificity of this PCR method in diagnosis, with failure to reveal in this cohort any cases of vertically transmitted HIV-1 infection in addition to those already confirmed by conventional laboratory techniques.