HIV DNA and antibodies in syringes from injecting drug users: A comparison of detection techniques

Samuel S. Myers, Robert Heimer, Douglas Liu, Denis Henrard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Direct HIV testing of individual injecting drug users is not always feasible. As an alternative, we have evaluated the sensitivity and specificity of several techniques for detecting HIV-1-specific products in used syringes. Design: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody-capture assays were compared using syringes prepared with blood from HIV-1-positive and -negative individuals. Methods: PCR sensitivity was maximized, enabling detection of single copies of HIV-1-specific proviral DNA. The limits of detection from used syringes were determined for PCR by diluting extracts and correlated to CD4+ cell counts. Similarly, limits of detection were determined for enzyme immunoassays (EIA) and Western blot. Results: All techniques were highly specific, although with PCR false-positives were detected occasionally. EIA proved more sensitive than Western blot in detecting needles containing HIV-1-infected individuals' blood. Even after prolonged storage of syringes at room temperature, EIA was equal to or better than PCR as an HIV-1 detection technique. The most sensitive method for detecting HIV-1 was the viral-based EIA when the recommended predilution step was omitted. Conclusions: EIA proved preferable to PCR because of their higher sensitivity, absence of false-positives and easier sample preparation and analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-931
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Enzyme-linked immunoassay
  • HIV-1 detection
  • Injection drug use
  • Polymerase chain reaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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