Oral fluid (OF) is a highly effective substrate for population-based HIV screening efforts, as it is noninfectious and significantly easier to collect than blood. However, anti-HIV antibodies are found at far lower concentrations in OF compared with blood, leading to poor sensitivity and a longer period of time from infection to detection threshold. Thus, despite its inherent advantages in sample collection, OF is not widely used for population screening.
Here we report the development of an HIV OF assay based on Antibody Detection by Agglutination–PCR (ADAP) technology. This assay is 1,000–10,000 times more analytically sensitive than clinical enzyme-linked immunoassays (EIAs), displaying both 100% clinical sensitivity and 100% specificity for detecting HIV antibodies within OF samples. We show that the enhanced analytical sensitivity enables this assay to correctly identify HIV-infected individuals otherwise missed by current OF assays. We envision that the attributes of this improved HIV OF assay can increase testing rates of at-risk individuals while enabling diagnosis and treatment at an earlier time point.