A new assay for HIV reverse transcriptase activity inhibiting antibodies (RTI-ab) was used for the analysis of a large collection of sera sampled before and after confirmation of HIV infection. In this assay HIV-RT was preincubated with diluted serum, after which residual RT activity was determined by a technique using a template coupled to macrobeads and 125I-lodo-deoxyuridine-triphosphate as the tracer-substrate. Of the 936 sera analysed, 818 were found positive for RTI-ab, and 824 were positive in Western blot (Wb). The prevalence of RTI-ab compared to Wb was therefore 99.3%. The corresponding figure for 930 sera analysed for envelope-ab, i.e., gp41-ab, was 823 positive, and of these 930 sera 815 were Wb positive, giving a comparative prevalence of 101%. In contrast, only 678 samples of 993 analyzed for core ab, i.e., p24, were positive, giving a prevalence of 77.0% as 880 of these samples were Wb positive. Thus, RTI-ab was as prevalent as gp41-ab, and although the analyses of RTI-ab amounts in different stages showed decreasing levels in stage IV compared to stages II or III, all of the sera except 1 were found positive in stages III and IV. Further, it was found that both the few RTI-ab negative samples in stage II and the few RTI-ab positive samples among Wb negative sera were sampled in connection with seroconversion. The specificity of the RTI-ab assay was 100% in a test of 200 serum samples from HIV negative blood donors. It was concluded that RTI-ab analyses can be made highly sensitive and specific and useful for studies of HIV infection.
1991. Vol. 34, no 1, 55-63 p.