A top scoring pairs classifier for recent HIV infections

Athena Chen, Oliver Laeyendecker, Susan H. Eshleman, Daniel R. Monaco, Kai Kammers, Harry Benjamin Larman, Ingo Ruczinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accurate incidence estimation of HIV infection from cross-sectional biomarker data is crucial for monitoring the epidemic and determining the impact of HIV prevention interventions. A key feature of cross-sectional incidence testing methods is the mean window period, defined as the average duration that infected individuals are classified as recently infected. Two assays available for cross-sectional incidence estimation, the BED capture immunoassay, and the Limiting Antigen (LAg) Avidity assay, measure a general characteristic of antibody response; performance of these assays can be affected and biased by factors such as viral suppression, resulting in sample misclassification and overestimation of HIV incidence. As availability and use of antiretroviral treatment increase worldwide, algorithms that do not include HIV viral load and are not impacted by viral suppression are needed for cross-sectional HIV incidence estimation. Using a phage display system to quantify antibody binding to over 3300 HIV peptides, we present a classifier based on top scoring peptide pairs that identifies recent infections using HIV antibody responses alone. Based on plasma samples from individuals with known dates of seroconversion, we estimated the mean window period for our classifier to be 217 days (95% confidence interval 183 to 257 days), compared to the estimated mean window period for the LAg-Avidity protocol of 106 days (76 to 146 days). Moreover, each of the four peptide pairs correctly classified more of the recent samples than the LAg-Avidity assay alone at the same classification accuracy for non-recent samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2604-2612
Number of pages9
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 20 2021


  • HIV infection
  • incidence estimation
  • phage immuno-precipitation sequencing
  • top scoring pairs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability


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