HIV-1 RNA

Last updated: Thursday, 25, October, 2007
Item Process
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 to standard curves and expressed as viral equivalents (copies)/mL.

Reference Interval

Method dependent.

Application

Monitoring the course of HIV infection, incl 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.