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Polymerase Chain Reaction Testing for Early Detection of HIV Infection in Children



ABSTRACT: Diagnosis of vertically acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is often difficult because of transplacentally acquired maternal antibodies. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is commercially available and has high sensitivity and specificity. To evaluate the usefulness of PCR testing in the early diagnosis of perinatally acquired HIV infection, we reviewed records of 122 children having follow-up in the Northeast Florida Pediatric AIDS Program. Seventy-two children were excluded for various reasons. Of the remaining 50 children, 37 had PCR testing. In 5 children, the initial PCR test was done at >18 months of age. Results of PCR testing were positive in 8 of 13 (62%) at birth, 12 of 18 (67%) by 1 month of age, 18 of 23 (78%) by 2 months of age, and 20 of 24 (83%) by 3 months of age. In 24 of 27 (85%), results were positive by the time the children reached 4 months of age. Our data suggest that the PCR test is a useful tool for early diagnosis of vertically transmitted HIV infection.

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