It is not uncommon for patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections to visit the emergency department (ED) during seroconversion. However, patients with newly acquired HIV may not have a reactive screening result. We report a case of a patient who initially screened reactive on a fourth generation HIV test and subsequently nonreactive twice, but ultimately had positive viral load tests.
A 41-year-old woman experiencing symptoms of a sore throat, odynophagia, and back and flank pain for 5 days presented to the ED. The patient had a reactive HIV screen but negative confirmatory antibody test. The ED provider ordered a HIV viral load, informed the patient, and discharged with oral antibacterial agent. The patient returned the next day and after review of Visit 1 results, the ED provider ordered a second HIV screen, which had a nonreactive result. Another HIV viral load order was placed. The patient was discharged and returned a third time, 4 days after initial presentation. On this visit she was admitted, and the initial HIV viral load result returned positive.
Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?
We report a case of a patient who initially screened reactive on a fourth generation HIV screening and then twice nonreactive on the same screening test, ultimately having positive viral loads. The most probable explanation for her series of atypical HIV results is that the patient presented during the p24 seroconversion window, which is graphically conveyed in Figure 1. If her first screening had been performed during the window, no further test would have been performed to rule out HIV, contributing to misdiagnosis. ED providers need to be aware that, at some time points during seroconversion from “negative” to “positive”, patients recently infected with HIV and manifesting prodromal symptoms may nonetheless have a negative screening result.
To read this article in full you will need to make a payment
Purchase one-time access:Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
One-time access price info
- For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
- For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'
Subscribe:Subscribe to Journal of Emergency Medicine
Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
Already an online subscriber? Sign in
Register: Create an account
Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect
- National survey of preventive health services in US emergency departments.Ann Emerg Med. 2011; 57: 104-108
- The detection of acute HIV infection.J Infect Dis. 2010; 202: S270-S277
- Laboratory testing for the diagnosis of HIV infection: updated recommendations.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Association of Public Health Laboratories, Atlanta, GA2014
- Comparison of 4th generation HIV antigen/antibody combination assay with 3rd generation HIV antibody assays for the occurrence of false-positive and false-negative results.Lab Med. 2015; 46: 84-89
- Revised recommendations for HIV testing of adults, adolescents, and pregnant women in health-care settings.MMWR Recomm Rep. 2006; 55: 1-17
- Rapid HIV screening: missed opportunities for HIV diagnosis and prevention.J Clin Virol. 2012; 54: 42-47
- Evaluation of the performance of the Abbott ARCHITECT HIV Ag/Ab Combo Assay.J Clin Virol. 2011; 52: S51-S55
- A case of seronegative HIV-1 infection.J Infect Dis. 2010; 201: 341-345
- Reduction of the diagnostic window with a new combined p24 antigen and human immunodeficiency virus anti-body-screening assay.J Virol Methods. 1998; 75: 27-38
- Combination assay detecting both human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) p24 antigen and anti-HIV antibodies open a second diagnostic window.J Clin Microbiol. 2005; 43: 5397-5399
- Evidence for a diagnostic window in fourth generation assays for HIV.J Clin Virol. 2001; 23: 113-116
- An HIV seroconversion case: an unequal performance of combined antigen/antibodies assays.AIDS. 2002; 16: 127-128
Published online: September 06, 2019
Accepted: June 22, 2019
Received in revised form: April 30, 2019
Received: April 25, 2018
© 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
ScienceDirectAccess this article on ScienceDirect
- False Negative Human Immunodeficiency Virus Rapid Test: Lessons to RememberJournal of Emergency MedicineVol. 59Issue 1
- PreviewThe article by Wilson et al. in the October 2019 article of the Journal exploring the probability of false negative human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) serologic testing at various time points during the window period is both interesting and informative (1). Regarding their article, we would like to highlight on the influencing factors for limitations of the currently available tests and awareness of these among counselors and other health care providers.