Evaluation of pooled rapid HIV antibody screening of patients admitted to a San Diego Hospital

Sanjay R. Mehta, Vu T. Nguyen, Georgina Osorio, Susan Little, Davey M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Current HIV screening guidelines in the United States recommend expanding the scope of HIV screening to include routine screening in health care settings; however, this will require increased resources. Since testing of pooled samples can decrease costs, the test characteristics of pooled rapid antibody testing were determined and optimal pool sizes were estimated for populations with HIV prevalence ranging from 0.25% to 10%. Based on these results, pooled testing methods were evaluated for screening patients admitted to hospital in San Diego, California. Evaluation of pooled antibody testing on samples collected from individuals with known HIV infection found only a modest reduction in sensitivity. These false negative results were only found among samples with very low optical density readings (<0.125 by the ADVIA Centaur® HIV assay). These readings are considered as HIV negative by the ADVIA Centaur® HIV assay, and therefore likely correspond to samples collected during acute infection. Further evaluation of pooled testing of samples collected from individuals during recent infection, found that mini-pool testing of five samples detected HIV antibody in 86% of samples taken within 60 days of the initial infection and 92% of samples taken within 90 days of the initial infection. Based on estimations of optimal pool sizes for low prevalence populations, it was decided to evaluate mini-pools consisting of 10 samples to screen the study's hospitalized patients. During this evaluation, the HIV prevalence among hospitalized patients was 0.8%, and the 10 sample mini-pool testing had 100% sensitivity and specificity. Additionally, pooled testing resulted in an 84.5% reduction in the number of rapid HIV antibody tests needed, as compared to testing each sample individually. Even when incorporating the increased costs of technician time, mini-pooled tested would have resulted in a net savings of 8760 USD for the 523 samples tested in the study. Taken together, these results indicate that pooled rapid antibody testing may reduce substantially the costs for HIV screening in low prevalence populations without a loss in accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-98
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Virological Methods
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost-effective screening
  • HIV screening
  • Pooled testing
  • Rapid antibody testing


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