Grant-McAuley W, Laeyendecker O, Monaco D, Chen A, Hudelson SE, Klock E, Brookmeyer R, Morrison D, Piwowar-Manning E, Morrison CS, Hayes R, Ayles H, Bock P, Kosloff B, Shanaube K, Mandla N, van Deventer A, Ruczinski I, Kammers K, Larman HB, Eshleman SH.. Evaluation of multi-assay algorithms for cross-sectional HIV incidence estimation in settings with universal antiretroviral treatment. BMC Infect Dis. 2022, 22: 838. PMC9652879
Background: Multi-assay algorithms (MAAs) are used to estimate population-level HIV incidence and identify individuals with recent infection. Many MAAs use low viral load (VL) as a biomarker for long-term infection. This could impact incidence estimates in settings with high rates of early HIV treatment initiation. We evaluated the performance of two MAAs that do not include VL. Methods: Samples were collected from 219 seroconverters (infected < 1 year) and 4376 non-seroconverters (infected > 1 year) in the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial; 28.8% of seroconverter samples and 73.2% of non-seroconverter samples had VLs ≤ 400 copies/mL. Samples were tested with the Limiting Antigen Avidity assay (LAg) and JHU BioRad-Avidity assays. Antibody reactivity to two HIV peptides was measured using the MSD U-PLEX assay. Two MAAs were evaluated that do not include VL: a MAA that includes the LAg-Avidity assay and BioRad-Avidity assay (LAg + BR) and a MAA that includes the LAg-Avidity assay and two peptide biomarkers (LAg + PepPair). Performance of these MAAs was compared to a widely used MAA that includes LAg and VL (LAg + VL). Results: The incidence estimate for LAg + VL (1.29%, 95% CI: 0.97-1.62) was close to the observed longitudinal incidence (1.34% 95% CI: 1.17-1.53). The incidence estimates for the other two MAAs were higher (LAg + BR: 2.56%, 95% CI 2.01-3.11; LAg + PepPair: 2.84%, 95% CI: 1.36-4.32). LAg + BR and LAg + PepPair also misclassified more individuals infected > 2 years as recently infected than LAg + VL (1.2% [42/3483 and 1.5% [51/3483], respectively, vs. 0.2% [6/3483]). LAg + BR classified more seroconverters as recently infected than LAg + VL or LAg + PepPair (80 vs. 58 and 50, respectively) and identified ~ 25% of virally suppressed seroconverters as recently infected. Conclusions: The LAg + VL MAA produced a cross-sectional incidence estimate that was closer to the longitudinal estimate than two MAAs that did not include VL. The LAg + BR MAA classified the greatest number of individual seroconverters as recently infected but had a higher false recent rate. Keywords: Early antiretroviral treatment; HIV incidence estimation; Recent infections; Universal antiretroviral treatment; Viral suppression.