Expansion of HIV viral load (VL) testing services are required to meet increased targets for monitoring patients on antiretroviral treatment. South Africa currently tests >4million VLs per annum in 16 highly centralised, automated high-throughput laboratories. The Xpert HIV-1 VL assay (Cepheid) was evaluated against in-country predicates, the Roche Cobas Taqmanv2 and Abbott HIV-1RT, to investigate options for expanding VL testing using GeneXpert’s random access, polyvalent capabilities and already established footprint in South Africa with the Xpert MTB/RIF assay (207 sites). Additionally, the performance of Xpert HIV-1VL on alternative, off-label specimen types, Dried Blood Spots (DBS) and whole blood, was investigated.
Precision, accuracy (agreement) and clinical misclassification (1000cp/ml) of Xpert HIV-1VL plasma was compared to Taqmanv2 (n = 155) and Abbott HIV-1 RT (n = 145). Misclassification of Xpert HIV-1VL was further tested on DBS (n = 145) and whole blood (n = 147).
Xpert HIV-1VL demonstrated 100% concordance with predicate platforms on a standardised frozen, plasma panel (n = 42) and low overall percentage similarity CV of 1.5% and 0.9% compared to Taqmanv2 and Abbott HIV-1 RT, respectively. On paired plasma clinical specimens, Xpert HIV-1VL had low bias (SD 0.32–0.37logcp/ml) and 3% misclassification at the 1000cp/ml threshold compared to Taqmanv2 (fresh) and Abbott HIV-1 RT (frozen), respectively. Xpert HIV-1VL on whole blood and DBS increased misclassification (upward) by up to 14% with increased invalid rate. All specimen testing was easy to perform and compatible with concurrent Xpert MTB/RIF Tuberculosis testing on the same instrument.