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The Western blot (WB) assay is the most widely accepted confirmatory assay for the detection of antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). However, indeterminate WB reactivity to HIV-1 proteins may occur in individuals who do not appear to be infected with HIV. The profiles of WB reactivity among Ethiopians are hardly known. Here, we describe the profiles of indeterminate WB reactivity in Ethiopians with discordant screening assays. Between 1996 and 2000, a total of 12,124 specimens were tested for HIV-1 antibodies. Overall, 1,437 (11.9%) were positive for HIV-1 antibody. Ninety-one ( approximately 0.8%) gave equivocal results because of discordant results among the various screening assays and indeterminate WB profiles by the American Red Cross (ARC) criteria. Most (30.4%) of these indeterminate WB results were due to p24 reactivity. However, 12 samples (13.2%) displayed reactivity to p24 and gp41 or to p24 and gp120/160 proteins (positive by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] criteria). Only two samples (2.2%) were reactive to both env glycoproteins gp41 and gp120/160 (positive by the World Health Organization [WHO] criteria). Of 31 WB assays initially indeterminate by the ARC criteria and with follow-up samples, 29 (93.5%) became negative when retested subsequently while 2 (6.5%) remained indeterminate for more than a year and were thus considered negative. Using CDC and WHO criteria, 6 (19.4%) and 2 (6.5%), respectively, of these WB assays would have been considered falsely positive. In addition, 17 indeterminate samples were negative when assessed by a nucleic acid-based amplification assay for HIV-1 viremia. In general, there was 97.8% concordance between the ARC and WHO criteria and 85.7% concordance between the ARC and CDC criteria for an indeterminate WB result. The ARC criteria best met the specified objectives for diagnosis in our setting.


Journal article


Clin Diagn Lab Immunol

Publication Date





160 - 163


Blotting, Western, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Ethiopia, False Positive Reactions, HIV Antibodies, HIV-1, Humans